WoMan in the Mirror Donatella Versace’s latest reflections on gender, sensuality, tailoring and hate in the world today
Donatella respects journalists. So much so, that she holds a press conference for those fashion critics and other news journalists prior to her Versace show to reflect on what made each collection tick. Coincidentally a reflections theme flowed through this collection via a runway backdrop made from a digital screen the length of football field whose technology allowed for a distorting of what it displayed and reflected. In fact, the audience became a part of the pre-show as the screen required press and buyers to “face themselves” on the screen before the show started.
But before getting to the show and its inspiration, she shared some personal sentiments for each to reflect on. In full composure, Versace remarked upon the recent shooting in Hanau, Germany where a gunman opened fire at two shisha bars – popular in Turkish immigrant neighborhoods and amongst young people – killing nine people before returning home where he inflicted fatal gunshots wounds to himself and his elderly mother. “I want to talk about these hate crimes that keep happening all over the world. We have a strong voice; me as a designer and you as journalists. And we must use it. What happened in Germany is the last straw. We need to act, and we need to be fast because we cannot permit young people to think that going back to the horrors of the past is acceptable.”
It was an admirable, touching and even brave subject for Ms. Versace to bring up as each new act must hit close to home. In doing so she gave us so much more to reflect upon than clothes for her Fall 2020 show which contained a few firsts – the first to incorporate full collections of both women’s and men’s on the same runway and the first in “The Mall” a modern office, residential and shopping complex and outdoor space that has sprouted in a vast space in the middle of Milan. The entrance to the location displayed a giant V statue – teased via the reflecting mirror invite – which aimed to give a new distorting look at the classics. Specifically, it was the V Barocco motif. “It’s not new but I thought about how to continue it, so I gave it energy by distorting it to become a new shape. I played it up with electronic music with distorting sounds that don’t really go together.”
Regarding combining the show, the designer described it this way “What I want to highlight is that today’s generation does not care about gender; men dress in women’s clothes and women in men’s clothes. Both with a strong point of view that’s not female or male but rather focusing on what is going on; what to know; what is the next not just fashion but in general. We look for this but especially so does the young generation.” Judging by Versace’s reboot among Gen Z, it’s clear that she gets them and knows what’s going on next with them.
But lest she leave anyone out she offered a range of wares from classic black “sexy” tailored dresses and men’s suiting’s that would appeal to Gen X while sporty plays on classics like a rugby shirt or quilted field jackets paired with patchwork leather and denim, colorful classic Gianni-era prints, cropped parkas and puffers hit home with the kids. The distortion was crystal clear as these standards were reworked to better versions of themselves. A psychedelic black and white soundwave print added to the distortion factor.
Self-confidence and sensuality hum through the heart of Versace. And Donatella practices what she preaches as the show opened to her image in multiple headshots and expressions splayed across the screen. (It would later show various gold Versace motifs in various states of distortion). In this collection she wanted to demonstrate that “sensuality comes from the brain first forming the way one thinks; the clothes accentuate that and become a means to an end.” The collection concentrated on bonded fabrics that gave structure to the strong silhouette. She added, “The focus is on the shoulder and the waist; big shoulders, big lip and smaller waist. That comes naturally if you do a Gianni shape.” On the men’s looks this became a “hypermasculinity.” Its female counterpart featured slashes through garments revealing skin which were kept together by gold metal hardware.
The show closed with classic Versace excess and extreme; mini-mini dresses often in chain mail and with padded crystal shoulder straps, or looking particularly ‘gangsta’ on Kaia Gerber, a distorted print worn with matching faux fur jacket. Those looks gave plenty in the audience cause to reflect upon – like their own lost days of youth.