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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Versace remixed

Donatella Versace's highly anticipated tie-up with H&M is a veritable 'Greatest Hits' of her fashion brand
The Straits Times - November 11, 2011
By: Imran Jalal
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Versace remixed A fluorescent example of the Versace for H&M collection. -- PHOTOS: H&M, VERSACE FOR H&M

In a former pier depot along New York's Hudson River on Tuesday night, a 500-strong party is brewing.

There in the corner of a dance hall, plastered with wallpaper of palm trees, is the star of the party: a very bronzed and blonde Donatella Versace.

She is fist-pumping the air as a velvet-clad Prince teases the crowd with an electric performance of his 1980s song, High Fashion.

All around Ms Versace, who is clad in a bodycon leather sheath dress, are her celebrity friends. There are supermodels Helena Christensen and Linda Evangelista, the original Versace girl from the 1990s; actresses Blake Lively, Jessica Alba and Uma Thurman; and young New York designers Alexander Wang and Joseph Altuzzara.

It is a big coming-out party for Versace's tie-up with H&M, which will be launched worldwide next Thursday.

The collection, as leggy models showcase to a thumping soundtrack, bears the hallmarks of the Italian house's flamboyant style: studs, leather, fringing and bright tropical prints.

Where the 56-year-old is concerned, excess and glamour have never gone out of style. After all, they are in her blood.

She was, she reminds you, 'only 111/2' when she began sneaking out to party with her late brother, Gianni, and his friends.

Their 31-year-old business, founded in Milan in 1978 by Gianni, is the epitome of opulent luxury. The brand's signature fluorescent Miami prints, Medusa emblems and Rococo patterns had their heyday through the late 1980s and 1990s.

There is an unabashed sexiness about the label which has seared itself onto the public consciousness: Cue the slinky black leather safety-pin dress that shot Elizabeth Hurley to fame in 1994 and the cut-down-to-there jungle print dress Jennifer Lopez wore to the Grammys in 2000.

The day after the party, Versace meets the press at a hotel in downtown Manhattan, her toned body sheathed in a leather trench dress from the H&M collection to which she has added touches to make it her own.

Working with H&M was a breeze, she says, in that rich Italian drawl.

'The only time they said ?no' was when I gave more and more sketches because I did not want to stop.'

But this is the same woman who once said she would never dabble in this whole collaboration business when H&M first approached her with the idea in 2008.

'It is true that three years ago I said I was not interested in designer collaborations,' she admits in an earlier e-mail interview with Urban.

'But that was a very different time. We were consolidating Versace as a luxury brand. Now that we have done that, it is time to show the house to the world,' she explains.

Seated next to her at the press conference is Ms Margareta van den Bosch, 68, the H&M creative adviser responsible for kick-starting the high-low collaboration frenzy when she roped in Karl Lagerfeld to design a capsule range for the brand in 2004.

She says: 'We have always been admirers of Versace. Its style is very much in vogue right now, in fashion media and on the music scene.'

It will be the 15th designer tie-up for the Swedish high-street giant. And, if history repeats itself, it will result in a mad shopping sprees at H&M stores worldwide.

Indeed, Ms Versace, who keeps the company of young, sometimes outre, personalities such as Lady Gaga and rappers M.I.A and Nicki Minaj, is very much plugged into youth culture.

Lady Gaga had her vintage Versace moment when Ms Versace opened her archives for the first time to dress the pop star for her Edge Of Glory video in June.

The brand's over-the-top style had fallen out of favour in the noughties. But it is now enjoying a nostalgic resurgence among the young, which the H&M collection shrewdly taps into .

Ms Versace wants to reach out to a new generation of fashion lovers and show them what the brand was.

'So many of them wouldn't even have been born when Versace's iconic pieces were created,' she says.

'I wanted to do a collection for this new generation, to show them what Versace truly represents.'

The H&M collection, for men and women, can therefore be called Versace's Greatest Hits as it pays homage to pieces from her body of work as well as that of her late brother, Gianni, who was murdered outside his home in Miami in 1997.

'This is a little cool remix. I'm a deejay,' she says.

The 100-piece collection straddles the chic (think a black sheath with gold medallion buttons) and the flamboyant (any takers for the acid pink suit, guys?). Prices range from $24.90 for a pair of briefs to $449 for a studded leather dress.

'Creating it was an emotional experience but also a happy one,' says Versace, who was extremely close to her older brother.

And what would he say if he were asked to do a collection with H&M?

She answers to laughter from the crowd: 'If he said ?no', I would push him to say ?yes'.'

Some place up there, we bet Gianni is smiling too.



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