Donatella Versace (born 1959) is a goddess of fashion. The female figurehead of one of the few remaining family-run fashion houses, she presides over seven brands under the Versace name. Her flamboyant, party-girl image has become synonymous with Versace itself.
Gianni Versace (born 1946) and Donatella grew up in Reggio Calabria, southern Italy. While her much older brother moved to Milan to seek his fashion fortune, Donatella studied for a degree in languages at the University of Florence. While there, her brother’s career took off. After working for Callaghan and Genny, he set up his solo label in 1978. Suggesting the family’s love for bright colours, body-hugging shapes and a large dose of glamour, it was a great success. He called on his younger sister to help develop the brand. The two worked together for much of the ’80s and ’90s, with Donatella concentrating on the sumptuous advertising images for which Versace is known to this day. She also set up the children’s line, Young Versace, in 1993 and worked as head designer on the diffusion label, Versus.
When Gianni Versace was tragically killed in 1996, his sister became chief designer and inherited a somewhat daunting legacy. She met the challenge. Versace was brought into the 21st century by fusing Gianni’s very Italian glamour with Donatella’s own rock’n’roll instincts. Versace is continually in the public eye, not least because of its – and Donatella’s – famous friends. Jon Bon Jovi, Courtney Love and Elizabeth Hurley are all devoted Versace fans. Madonna even posed as a sexy secretary in Versace’s spring/summer 2005 ad campaign.
Donatella is also responsible for extending the brand’s range, setting up both a cosmetics line and Palazzo Versace, the first six-star Versace hotel, which opened on the Gold Coast of Australia in 2000.