The Versace for H&M runway soundtrack featured a repeating track of Donatella Versace’s new-found house maxim: “My house, my rules, my pleasure.” This past year has seen her at her most restless, with the mega success of the H&M team up and a return to the couture atelier a month ago, Donatella has been working, and creating, with all cylinders blazing. With this fall collection she touches on her later brother Gianni’s fall 1997 Haute Couture collection, which he debuted a month before his untimely passing. Some of the notable motifs are clearly there, but the undeniable strength of this Versace woman is all Donatella. Her house.
Opening with a set of black dresses, the first a coat dress with crystal crucifix embroidery, fishnet stocking thigh-high boots, shorn high bangs and black sockets, it was completely rock & roll, fetishistic, Gothic. Lisbeth Salander loses the hoodie and straps on some heels, is more like it. The crucifixes from Gianni’s last collection figured here as a giant sapphire crystal frontispiece on a black corset top with 3D hip cut outs, stamped in a scattered pattern on a black leather cropped moto jacket, as an ostentatious wallpaper print on a mini-dress, an ink-spill trompe l’oeil embroidered print on a long-sleeve cocktail dress with a mock turtle, crystal encrusted onto boots – you name it.
But the silhouettes between Gianni’s and Donatella’s couldn’t have been more disparate. She certainly drew from the conveyance of strength in her brother’s final couture outing, but there was barely a moment of flow or billow to speak of here, save for one high-slit black gown. Dresses here were rigid and structured like armor. The dazzling chain-mail gowns with linking leather lattice straps made for glamazons of some Space Age Holy Wars hybridization. Precision-perfect engineering was Donatella’s call of duty for fall. It’s hard to recall a garment as achingly, painstakingly imagined in a ready-to-wear runway as Julia Nobis’ nude sheath overlayed entirely by metallic geometric links. That was a whole new trick I’m not so sure I’ve seen from Versace before. Remember, her rules.
Donatella stated that with this collection she was confronting her demons. The crucifixes might be the most telling sign of the kid sister’s absolution. Strength has allowed her to carry the house this far and it will help her to continue to carry on. Sometimes embracing your darkest demons can bring forth a most pleasurable benediction, and it was clearer than ever, that making this latest collection was most certainly her pleasure.