Donatella Versace (born 2 May 1955) is an Italian fashion designer and current Vice President of the Versace Group, as well as its chief designer. She owns a 20% share of the business. During the 1980s, Donatella’s brother, Gianni Versace, launched a perfume dedicated to her, Blonde, and gave her his own diffusion label, Versus. Versace took over the label’s design after her brother’s death.
Early life and family
She was born in the Italian city of Reggio Calabria, the youngest of four children in her family. Her father was a personal financier to the Italian aristocracy. An older sister, Tina, died at the age of twelve from an improperly treated tetanus infection. Her brother Santo Versace owns 30% percent of Versace stock.
In the mid-1970s, Donatella followed her older brother, Giovanni (“Gianni”), to pursue knitwear design in Florence, Italy. She had planned to work for her brother in the public relations department, but was more valuable to Gianni as a “muse and critic”, according to her during an interview with Vogue.] Through her closeness to her brother’s enterprises, Donatella entered the fashion world. A decade later, during the 1980s, Gianni launched a perfume dedicated to her, Blonde, and gave her her own label, Versus, which remains a well-known Versace line.
A year and three days after Gianni’s death on 15 July 1997, Donatella Versace mounted her first couture show for the Versace Atelier at the Hôtel Ritz Paris. She built her runway over the hotel’s swimming pool, as her brother had done every season, though this time using sheer glass. She now oversees the production of a dozen collections each year, though these days, she is just as famous for her celebrity entourage and parties whose regular guests include Sir Elton John, Liz Hurley, Rakeem Young, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Kate Moss. Even Prince Charles attends Donatella’s parties for the famous and elite throughout Europe.
She soon proved to be the public relations giant within the Versace label and spread its name throughout Europe and most of the United States. Donatella chose to place some of her good friends, Lil’ Kim, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Courtney Love, Christina Aguilera, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Demi Moore, and Lady Gaga in high esteem in the Versace advertising sector, making them and other A-List celebrities such as Beyoncé and January Jones the persona and image of Versace. Her popularity grew when she designed the famous Versace Green Dress, also known as the “Jungle-Dress”, which was worn by Jennifer Lopez at the Grammys. Branching into other fields, the company has created the grand, luxurious Palazzo Versace resort on the Gold Coast of Australia. Another growing symbol of the Versace style, the Burj al-Arab, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), boasts a broad collection of Versace furniture and beddings in its expensive and lavish rooms.
Real estate ventures
Plans for the Palazzo Versace, Dubai were announced in May 2005. Gianni Versace SpA, Sunland Group Ltd., and Emirates International Holdings have announced the Palazzo Versace resort to be constructed in the Arabian Bays on the Dubai Creek in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.] The second Palazzo Versace will boast a number of suites and luxury villas, including an exclusive spa. Official plans are to begin construction in 2006 and have the hotel completed sometime in the year 2008. The interior of the hotel will be furnished with various Versace collections. As Creative Director, Donatella will carry out final plans and design strategies for the hotel and resort compound. This will be the second Palazzo Versace hotel ever to be built, and the second hotel in Dubai to boast a wide range of Versace collections. In October 2002, Gianni and Donatella’s most famously designed Versace clothing was displayed in a special exhibit of the historical Victoria and Albert Museum of London to be honored for extraordinary fashion success and symbolism worldwide.
She is a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
In 2010, Donatella’s charity work earned her a Do Something With Style Award nomination from the VH1 Do Something Awards. She was nominated for providing art supplies to children and creating a tote bag, whose proceeds will go to Starlight and the ONE Foundations. The awards show, produced by VH1, is dedicated to honoring people who do good and is powered by Do Something, an organization that aims to empower, celebrate, and inspire young people.
She and her former husband, American model Gary Bonaccorso have two children: daughter Allegra (b. 30 June 1986), and son Daniel Versace (b. 1990). Cathy Horyn describes visiting their Milan apartment in 1996: “It was a lavish place, the living room done in versace prints, but it was also a beautiful and feminine home.” Donatella was at the time into drugs and a heavy smoker.
Her brother Gianni Versace was murdered by Andrew Cunanan on 15 July 1997, outside the re-constructed Casa Casuarina, also known as Versace Mansion, in Miami, Florida. A multi-continent search ensued for the suspected spree killer, but in the end, Cunanan avoided capture by committing suicide a few days after the murder. In the aftermath of the highly publicized crime and manhunt, most of the Versace family, including Donatella, moved temporarily to a secluded private resort in the Caribbean. Then, Donatella’s daughter Allegra inherited 50% of Versace’s entire stock after Gianni’s death.
In popular culture
Donatella has been regularly impersonated by Maya Rudolph on the American sketch comedy/variety show Saturday Night Live, which airs on the NBC network. In reality, Rudolph and Versace are good friends. She is also perpetrated as a highly publicized user of the Power-Plate.
Versace has given cameo performances in many films relating to fashion and its industry, such as Zoolander. In other films, including the 2006 hit The Devil Wears Prada, her name is mentioned sporadically.
In the ABC series Ugly Betty a fictional character called “Fabia”, played by actress Gina Gershon, is a parody of Donatella. Lady Gaga wrote the song “Donatella” from her 2013 album Artpop for her.