Could there possibly be a better moment for Donatella Versace? With the craze for nineties Gianni Versace baroque ’n’ roll prints at high tide—fashion kids are scouring every vintage source for shirts and scarves and flaunting them around the shows—and Donatella’s collaboration with H&M launching in New York in November, she’s surfing a mighty wave with excellent aplomb. Her show managed to net in all the classy values she’s been working the last few seasons—while also letting loose a happy, confident stream of Versace-isms: biker jackets; studded, second-skin pencil skirts; gold, sparkling summer pastels; mini-gladiator dresses; and goddess-y gowns. There was (if you haven’t guessed it already) a summery underwater theme going on. “I thought they looked like Botticelli babes, rising from the sea,” said Donatella’s enraptured protégé Christopher Kane, who belongs to the second generation of the Versace-obsessed. “And the girls, with their beautiful hair, bobbing along . . . I kept having flashbacks.” Versace almost had her own words drowned out by the ovation that followed her offstage. “I was thinking of sirens and mermaids, their hot sexuality. And everything I like, and Gianni liked,” she said, laughing.
What brought on the applause wasn’t just the heady goodwill following all things Versace: It’s the clever, modernized clarity she has brought to this label. Everything she did for summer was clean, bright, brilliantly made, and to the point. Prints of seahorses, starfish, and scallop shells, playing over neoprene biker-jacketed suits with tiny, tailored shorts and abbreviated dresses were complex but un-garishly pretty and melded seamlessly into a palette that ran from ice blue to lavender, lemon, and pistachio. The mini-goddess dresses, with streams of pleats running down one side of the body (the Gianni-flashback section of the show), were still reined in from out-and-out vulgarity. And even the mothers of the Botticelli babes—the customers Donatella has been carefully courting with fitted shift-dresses and decorative coats for the last few years—weren’t left behind. The white, zippy suits with knee-length skirts will do them very nicely.
Where, though, you might ask, were those desperately sought-after multicolored patchworks of prints? Wasn’t Donatella going to take advantage of that? Not to worry. Cleverly navigating the crest of the trend every kid wants, she’s going for the accessible route: “That’s for H&M,” she said, smiling.
Photo: Marcio Madeira/firstVIEW