The Inside Story of Donatella Versace’s Homage to Gianni: Classic Prints and Your Favorite ’90s Supermodels

“Over the years I’ve seen so many homages to Gianni Versace and direct reference to Gianni Versace,” she said. “But I didn’t have the courage to do it myself. I was always afraid to touch the work of Gianni. I thought I would be criticized: ‘She isn’t Gianni.’ I thought I was going to fail. I mean, I did fail for a while! But then I realized: I was there for all of it. And the younger girls — Kendall, Gigi — kept asking what it was all about. Because you know, he died before there was social media.”

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Versace, spring 2018.

Credit
Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

So she went into the archives: a 10,760-square-foot storage facility in Novara, Italy, a town west of Milan, which houses 13,000 pieces by Mr. Versace. And she came out with a collection that would be a celebration of 12 classic prints her brother created between 1991 and 1997, including the “Warhol” (a primary-colored riot of Marilyn and James Dean portraits), the animalière (leopard) and the baroque (ornate gold squiggles). And while she remade a few pieces in their entirety, most she decided to reclaim via her own specifications: more day wear, sharper shoulders, fewer slits.

What would her brother say about the result? Ms. Versace laughed. “Bitch!” Then she added, “No, he’d love it.”

“The difference between my brother and me is I also love women and think clothes are a good weapon to show ‘here I am, look at me,’ ” she said, “But for me, it’s not ‘look at me, I am so gorgeous,’ but ‘look at me, I have something to say.’ When I first started, I was doing 12 or more pieces of evening wear a collection. Now it’s like two.”

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A 1991 photo of Gianni Versace with models wearing his collection in Milan.

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Vittoriano Rastelli/Corbis, via Getty Images

The result, on the Friday show schedule, was Versace past through the eyes of Versace present, with a riot of in-your-face prints given the platform to speak very loudly indeed, unrestrained by overcomplicated cut or concept. Every garment will come complete with a label that notes the collection and the year, so consumers will know the moment of origin.

And then, to top it all off, Ms. Versace invited some of her brother’s favorite models, the ones who had been most associated…

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