The rollercoaster year of Donatella Versace

If watching the Gioconda live can impress you, leaving you paralyzed as you try to distinguish all the details after more than two hours of queue to see it, just imagine the expression you can carve on your face when you see the very Donatella Versace trying to jump off her car, wearing a dress that makes her less flexible than a Barbie. It was in the middle of October near Porta Venezia, a discreet but silent neighborhood near Milan city center. I stared there in awe all the time it took her to make the effort. I had the time to watch her in detail, like a proper work of art. And she really is art, in a sense: modeled by a dozen plastic surgeons who made her face an expressionless painting of inflatable beauty.

Her lips, 100% botox, are big and juicy. Their chemical composition produces a total block of the other 175 face muscles the rest of humanity uses just for laughing. The cheekbones sustain her smooth face, like a newly ironed shirt. Her hair, blond, long and smooth, frames her fair complexion, and her eyes, like Medusa’s, are made to paralyze.

I realized the human mind is not ready to see such a plastic and ecstatic wonder live without a previous Photoshop filter.

International lists, including Forbes, love Donatella, since she is an easy character to place in their rankings. By the end of this year, the same Queen of Versace made it to the top 10 of the most influential fashion designers of all time. Practically nothing. They placed her sharing the throne with the classical yet innovative Coco Chanel and the sophisticated and elegant Yves Saint Laurent. There’s also a lot of discussion about her financial situation, and the fact that she is one of the most paid designers in the world, with a personal amount of 200 million dollars, claiming the 21st position in the ranking, but still a little farther from her little and skinny daughter, Allegra Versace, who ranks 12th, with 800 million dollars and 50% of the Gianni Versace’s company.

It is undeniable that this was a very important and positive year for Versace. Halfway through the year, Migos presented a song called Versace in collaboration with Drake, a song where the word Versace is repeated to repletion. At the end of summer the brand announced the collaboration of singer M.I.A. to create a capsule collection for Versace Versus. The ingredients were of excellent quality and the working tools the best one can ask for, but… What happened with the result? I don’t think the collection can be defined with a single concept, so it’s quite indescribable. We can say the collection as a whole was similar to a science fiction movie; the special effects are great but also fastidious because you are made to use 3D glasses.

In October we had the première of the movie The House of Versace, inspired in the homonymous book by Deborah Ball. Denied and forbidden by the Italian company, the film gives an overview of the private life of the three brothers. Gianni Versace as the creator and the soul of the brand, Santo Versace as the financial manager and responsible for marketing and Donatella as a muse, addicted to drugs for her family drama. The film focuses on Gianni’s murder, but more on the reactions Donatella had after the murder, which the blonde Queen didn’t like at all. To put it plainly, in the film we can see a lot of white dust and not so much dresses, so we can understand the family’s anger.

But the end of the year gives us less drama, and it’s time to welcome Lady Gaga on the stage. We were really worried she hadn’t appeared already, weren’t we? In her new album Artpop there’s a song called Donatella where the singer expresses her friendship to the designer by calling her “Blond, rich and bitch”, along with other adjectives which help us recreating a quite explicit image of Donatella. The designer received the song for her 58 birthday, like a bomb present. She liked it, and as we could expect, she took advantage of it and communicated that the singer would be the brand’s icon for the new year.

Donatella has always been living an artist life: cigarettes, cocaine and botox. Her brother’s death left a deep depression in her, and consequently a drug addiction that almost caused Versace to go bankrupt. But the designer accepted the challenge of rehabilitation and after a few years she was back, taking the role of creative director of the brand, aiming to the top once again. Her last collections are memorable, just like her collaboration with H&M back in November 2011. A Donatella for contemporary women, urban and sexy.

But let’s go back to our Milan neighborhood. I stayed there watching at her, I didn’t get any closer. Just like with the Mona Lisa, where you get this six feet barrier around to contain the crowd of Asian tourists and you, I got an invisible barrier which didn’t let me advance and get closer to her. I could see her slip on her high heels through the door of a building nearby. After this, she vanished.

After knowing a little more about the designer’s life, I can’t help asking myself: what if I was wrong? What if Versace’s heroine had always been Donatella, even though foreshadowed in the media by her brother? Couldn’t she be the flame, which ignited his talent and not vice versa? The answer is up to you.

Text: Salustiá Álvarez