Versus: Donatella The Momager?
“If fashion follows the same mood as the economy, of depression around the world, it would have no reason to exist.” – Donatella Versace
Saturday night, 9pm -- the stage was set for Donatella Versace’s Versus show at the Olympia hall in West Kensington. Sofi Tukker’s “Matadora” boomed from the showspace as guests pulled up in their black Mercedes-Benzes. One by one, editors, chart topping artists and the rest of the fashion community ascended the stairs ready to let loose at one of Donatella’s quarterly club night. The talent in the front row and on the catwalk came straight out of Donatella’s rolodex: Gigi and Bella Hadid opened and closed the show respectively while M.I.A. Matangi, Tinie Tempah and Ellie Goulding graced the photo call. It was more than anyone could care to namedrop. Good music, good crowd, killer lights – a winning formula. Despite it all, there was no doubt the raison d’etre for the evening was paying respects to the matriarch, one of the few icons London Fashion Week actually boasts.
Versus Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Fall Winter 2017 in London (by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION)
After last September’s announcement that Zayn Malik would step into Anthony Vaccarello’s shoes in light of the latter’s departure to Saint Laurent, Versus’ repositioning has been nothing short of stark. Moving on from being a vessel for fashion’s future legends like Christopher Kane and Jonathan Anderson, the new angle to build Versus on the clout of young musical talents like Zayn is a bait towards the Instagram generation, and in doing so probably securing its future for the next few years. Since Zayn’s SS17 capsule collection that will be dropping in stores in May, the Versus lexicon altered into quasi downtown club wear; a little tough, a lot of sex and rock and roll. While it remains unclear what Zayn's involvement in this season's collection is, the aftereffect on Saturday’s catwalk was a show fit for the young and hungry, giving brands like Diesel a run for its money.
But all seems in keeping with Donatella’s ethos for Versus -- brash, rebellious and with a promise of star quality. An old documentary directed by Loïc Prigent, The Day Before (2010), which followed Donatella 36 hours before the Versace catwalk show in Milan, held clues as to why she might have taken Versus down this route. “Fashion is like music. It’s to bring people up, it’s to bring people… [to] want to do something, wanting something. If fashion follows the same mood as the economy, of depression around the world, it would have no reason to exist,” said the designer. By that logic, the tougher the times, the louder the music, the fiercer the fashion.
While using music as conduit is not exactly revolutionary, her desire to connect with the younger generation is palpable. As a mother of two, Donatella has become a bit of a maternal figure for past designers who have taken the helm at Versus and now for these bright young things who have a golden opportunity to be a small part of the Versace’s legacy. Amidst general doom and gloom, Donatella’s gesture goes a long way in driving positivity down the catwalks of LFW and beyond. “Fashion has the power to send out a message of hope and unity, especially to the new generation. Versus is about passion, optimism and a fierce statement of equality,” she said. And in return for her guidance to young talent, she imbues relevance into Versus, “I wanted Zayn because he can help me talk to his followers. I want to listen to their language. I want to learn more about them, what they think and what they like. They are a new generation that without working with someone like Zayn, I will never reach," she mentioned to the Times.
Safe to say Donatella is the momager many younger London designers need but may not deserve.