Review of Versace ‘La Vacanza’ Pre-Fall 2023 Fashion Show
Donatella and Dua’s Dream Vacation
By Mark Wittmer
It was only a matter of time: after half a decade of fashion friendship, Donatella Versace and Dua Lipa have taken it to its logical conclusion with a co-designed collection.
After exploding onto the scene in 2017, Dua Lipa quickly settled into Versace as her brand of choice. Donatella Versace is the singer’s go-to designer for red carpet appearances and tour outfits; she’s also closed runway shows and fronted ad campaigns.
Presented with a bold and fun retro runway spirit, the collection proved that Donatella and Dua are more than just friends, but kindred creative spirits: it was a very cohesive – and very Versace – outing.
Staged at Cannes in the midst of the Cannes Film Festival, the pomp and circumstance around the “La Vacanza” runway premiere thoroughly embodied the two patterns we are currently seeing in fashion media: the rise of Cannes as a bona-fide fashion event of its own, and the trend of Resort collections being international spectacles on a larger scale than main-collection shows. While celebrity arrivals and the front-row roster rival at these major shows rival the collection itself for the main event, Versace here took it a step further via brief pre-show interviews hosted by actor and model (including for Versace) Iván de Pineda and A-list arrivals including Dwayne Wade, Rina Sawayama, Simone Ashley, and Hyunjin (for whom the YouTube livestream chat was going wild).
This spectacle runs the risk of overshadowing the collection itself, but the collaborators showed up for a strong, albeit somewhat safe, vision of the ideal vacation that merged Italian glam and 80s Miami into a wardrobe worthy of a pop superstar.
Right out of the gate, Donatella and Dua demonstrate that Gianni Versace’s revolutionary vision for tailoring is just as striking today: a skirt suit or blazers that emphasize the shoulders and waist were executed in a bright pink that might have felt like a play to the Barbiecore trend had it not been the case that Versace was doing it 40 years ago. Soon, men’s tailoring enters the fray, emphasizing the masculine form and embodying the Versace belief that men deserve to be sex objects too.
Picking up on this theme as well as that of poolside ease, the blazers were worn over bikinis or Donatella’s favorite corset, for women, or a tactical-inspired yet sexily reworked cargo vest for men. The kink-suggestive straps of this piece also graced a few form-fitting dresses.
In addition to the tailoring and big hair, the 80s references playfully threaded its way through the runway format itself; models stopped to strike a sassy pose not just one, but two (!) times as they traversed the runway that stretched over a swimming pool. An even farther throwback came as host de Pineda returned to the mic for about eight looks in the middle of the show, speaking to the garments in the manner of the announcers that were ever-present in the fashion shows of the 40s and 50s, when ready-to-wear as an idea was first taking shape.
Iconic yet undersung Versace codes, like the super light chainmail created by Gianni Versace or the playful polka dots, were reworked with butterfly motifs – one of Lipa’s signature emblems. These polka dots danced across printed silks and swimwear, which when paired with white denim sets got a bit of an elevated edge á la Scarface, while cowboy boots (butterfly-embellished, of course) push the Hollywood sensibility.
French terry sets in the collection’s signature pink and blue painted a pair of male models as hunky pool boys, with the two ladies who walked together just after them as the vacationers who might lust after them – or be lusted after. The closing black dresses seem to say that, while poolside looks are fun, it’s at the cocktail hour that this vacation really gets going.
Perhaps because the show does so well at presenting the ideal form of a Versace resort collection, it’s difficult to identify how exactly – apart from the butterflies – the collaborative presence of Dua Lipa has set this collection apart. But that could certainly be said to be a testament to how well the two collaborators work together, rather than a detraction.
Leveraging the spectacle of Cannes, a unique creative collaboration, and playfully clever homages to various fashion heydays, La Vacanza has taken us on a bold and bright trip into the beating heart of Versace.