The 20th anniversary of Gianni Versace’s heartbreaking death is upon us this month, as fashion insiders and close friends take to social media to commemorate the late icon’s legacy. Versace’s murder, which has since been ingrained in pop culture history, soon to be reimagined for television in American Crime Story, left a gaping hole in the momentum of 90s fashion, much of which he defined in his daring, Italian style. His vision and name has lived on and thrived under the direction of sister Donatella.
Versace began his career in fashion at a young age, working in his mother’s dressmaking studio in Italy. Heavily influenced by Greek history and a love of pop culture, he moved to Milan to pursue a career in design, dabbling in various jobs before conceiving his first eponymous women’s ready to wear collection in 1978 alongside his brother Santo and sister Donatella, who worked side by side with Versace from the very beginning. By 1989, Versace produced his first couture collection and had become a household name in fashion. He was known for his glamorous styles, cutting edge techniques and unique use of materials, such as Elizabeth Hurley’s infamous safety pin dress worn to a movie premiere that helped put the actress on the map. Versace embraced celebrity culture long before social media and instant uploads became a part of everyday life. His front row consisted of powerhouse stars such as Madonna and Elton John, who were actually friends of the designer as opposed to the influencers and paid celebrities lining the catwalks these days. He had close relationships with the supermodel’s of the day, dubbed “Gianni’s Girls”, many of whom have taken to Instagram to share old photos and memories of the late designer.
On July 15th,1997, at age 50 and at the height of his career, Versace was shot outside his Miami Beach mansion by serial killer Andrew Cunanan, who committed suicide a few days later. The senseless act was mourned globally, as Versace was not only a successful designer, he was also an openly gay man, supporter of the arts, friend to royals and celebrities, and proud Italian with close family ties. A New York service was held for him at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, attended by every bold faced name in fashion.
The Versace label, created by Gianni, has since never left the family. Brother Santo serves at CEO and sister Donatella still resides as creative director for the brand. Rumors swirled earlier this year of Riccardo Tisci’s appointment after he left Givenchy, but have yet to be confirmed. The Versace label itself only continues to grow in it’s success, still remaining one of the most revered and powerful names in fashion, a legacy started by a man who’s vision still influences fashion and culture to this day. Rest in peace, Gianni.
Visual Editor OLGA SOROKINA