Versace Pre Fall 2019

by Long Nguyen

On the cusp of the recent $ 2.1 billion acquisition completed earlier this fall by the Michael Kors Holdings Company, the Versace brand is on the move to expand, globally dropping the first anchor into New York’s financial district for its pre-fall 2019 show. The show precedes a pre-collection showing in the winter and resort line in spring, with merchandise deliveries expected in late May and November respectively. These collections are now the bread and butter for the luxury brand since the clothes stay on the retail floor at full price for the longest period of time. Versace’s chosen date of December 2nd is significant and has a specific meaning – it was the actual birthdate of the brand’s founder Gianni Versace in 1946.

Amber Valetta’s last look for the show – a long sleeve, floor length dress (with multicolor hearts cut in an extreme deep v-neck held by a below the navel broach) said it all, and said it extremely loudly. The look capped off a show devoted to the most iconic codes and signatures of the Versace fashion house. Valletta’s runway dress is an exact reproduction of the infamous green print silk dress that J.Lo wore to the Grammys in February 2000. But before she appeared to close the show, another dress that catapulted the Versace brand to global prominence appeared — a black wool slash dress. Held together by a series of gold Medusa safety pins, the dress was famously worn by Elizabeth Hurley in 1994 at the premiere of the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral. Afterward, Kaia Gerber wore a shiny silk asymmetrical skirt held by a golden pin below the navel and a cropped knit and vinyl jeans jacket.  

Two different dresses reflected two breakthrough moments in Versace’s history that now converge here among the cascades of yellow and black Barocco prints, zebra prints, acid colors, shiny fabric micro dresses, and the heart prints taken directly from Jim Dine’s designs at Gianni Versace’s New York townhouse. The print looks from their spring 1996 show now appeared on silk chiffon and wool corset dresses, blouses and thigh high boots and even red and black print denim jackets and jeans for men.  It was the entirety of Versace’s iconic fashion codes and archives all merged into one collection mixed and matched for a new audience.

The menswear – a part of the business that should see exponential growth — swerved between a more classic-looking short black, broad-shouldered wool jacket and straight leg pants to a sporty faux fur zebra coat with matching zebra print shirt and shorts.  One model donned head to toe Barocco print shirt, pants, head bandanna and matching messenger bag recalled the brand’s mid 90’s silk prints shirts and black leather pants. For a more formal look, a shiny black, white, and gold striped jacket paired with black pants and a zebra print scarf.   

Clothing aside, a new range of accessories is the financial foundation of the brand and the key to its future success. There’s a reason why every model in the show carried some kind of bag — from small handbags and vinyl leather purses, carry-on rollaways, waist belted bags, leather zippered pouches, men’s white leather shopping bags to a variety of small jewelry. Golden brass earrings, bracelets, and gold watches accompanied a multitude of strapy leather heels and men’s white sneakers. The Versace logo can be seen sparsed throughout the bags and accessories or on the white short sleeve cotton t-shirt Gigi Hadid wore, featuring a print micro skirt and long back train.

Some seasoned fashion observers may view the clothes from the show retrospective. Pieces like the famous prints, curvy dresses adorned with golden pins, J-Lo’s long silk print v-neck dress, the men’s animal prints and various incarnations of embroidered and vinyl micro dresses – all conferred a real sense of heritage to what the Versace brand stands for today.  These styles, looks, and silhouettes are the genesis of the house, instantly recognizable as Versace, and timeless.

There is always a new generation. Consumers today are presumably younger millennials and GenZ who had never seen these fashions when they were shown the first time around in the ’90s. For them, what was shown inside the American Stock Exchange is brand new and exciting.  It is also a new discovery, just as it was for the audience who experienced this fashion the first time around. While not all fashion can be recycled, the house is returning to its history to connect to new audiences.

The core styles of a venerable fashion brand never really out of date. Versace is a gold mine that can spring new wealth year after year, which could be why the only decoration inside the Stock Exchange was a giant hand holding a torch with flames spewing out on top, of course, painted in gold.  When all the models from the show gathered under the golden palm it was clear that this event was a winner for Versace the brand and for Donatella Versace, who has worked diligently over more than two decades to maintain that the fashion houses flame. Now the newly strengthened business structure and direction will empower the flame to shine even brighter.

Photos courtesy of Versace