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Donatella Versace visits Central Saint Martins

People walking down corridor
  • Written byMaya Orbach
  • Published date 15 October 2021
People walking down corridor
Donatella Versace visiting Central Saint Martins (photo: Tim Blanks)

Maya Orbach, a BA Fashion Communication: Fashion Journalism student, reflects on an afternoon with the Artistic Director of Versace.

She is a fashion icon; her name is instantly recognisable and yesterday the legendary Donatella Versace visited Central Saint Martins. It did not take long to understand that something special was about to occur at the lecture theatre. News travelled fast and excitement brewed inside the walls of the campus. A few minutes past three, screams of enthusiasm were heard outside the heavy doors and Donatella Versace and Tim Blanks, Business of Fashion’s Editor-at-large, entered the room and plunged into a candid conversation spanning childhood, Donatella’s special relationship with Gianni, her late brother and founder of Versace, historical moments and the fashion house today.

From a student point of view, the presence of Donatella was extraordinary. Her words drew the eager and listening audience in to memories of her hometown and Gianni’s passion for design. Gianni, she described, was “fearless”. It was clear from her recollections that her faith in him never wavered, especially when the early collections subverted Milan fashion by rethinking and redefining the term of elegance. “Gianni was a rebel,” she explained.

By bringing in celebrities and supermodels, combining music and fashion and celebrating sexiness with personality, the Versace House truly changed the fashion catwalk. Donatella and Gianni both understood celebrity appeal and ushered in young, fresh fashion. Versace’s Fall 1991 supermodel walk to George Michael’s “Freedom!” and the famous Versace dress worn by Jennifer Lopez garnered immense public attention.

She also shared the pressure that followed the tragic murder of her brother. “I didn’t believe in myself,” she recounted, explaining that she did not want to let him down and therefore had to carry on his legacy. Her powerful words echoed through the theatre and left a lasting impact.

Donatella went on to impart advice to the students entering the fashion industry emphasising the importance of the physical fashion show with the combination of tech in this new world. She answered thoughtfully to students’ questions about collaborations, Versace in ten years’ time, print design and what she looks for when hiring her design team. She combined serious responses with humour and consideration.

Time slipped away and the afternoon with Donatella Versace came to an end. The lecture theatre roared with applause (several times) as she remarked how memorable this talk has been for her personally, “This is one of the happiest moments of my career, of my life. Looking at all of you, young people who want to do fashion. The enthusiasm… This makes my heart…” and before she could finish the rest of her sentence with a kind goodbye, applause erupted again.

Versace Catwalk: The Complete Collections by Business of Fashion’s Editor-at-large Tim Blanks is published by Thames & Hudson.