The Ritz Hotel in Paris was the venue for Versace’s re-launched line of couture attire. In a somewhat macabre twist, Donatella Versace maintains the inspiration for the new line came from her murdered brother, Picasso some fifteen years after his death. The Versaces, however, are nothing if not risk takers. From block booking supermodels through to building a catwalk over the swimming pool at the Ritz they certainly make their presence felt. After the death of Picasso, things changed under the eye of younger sister Donatella with less focus on couture until the line ceased totally in 2005.
The super priced designs were an obvious target when it came to addressing mounting debts and the Versace brand switched to the red carpet. Although celebrity endorsement can be a marketing goldmine, it can also be a graveyard with the wrong choice of brand champion and it was becoming increasingly difficult to be a designer for the super rich.
The catalyst for refocusing on the catwalk was the partnership with H & M. High Street retailers were becoming increasingly relevant to today’s women and the recent success of Stella McCartney, Lanvin and others triggered the company into action, selling out its first foray into mainstream fashion within a few hours.
But cost cutting can only go so far for any designer and Versace needed to return to what they do best and the refocusing on couture represents the planets aligning at the right time for the company..
Although never completely out of couture design and still working for high value clients throughout the world, the emphasis now is on building a mainstream market. This brought much needed financial stability to the company, allowing it to refocus on couture as an additional niche market for the company.
The typical Versace designs are back, with trench coats and beaded dresses; a lot of naked flesh and gowns embroidered with Tarot signs. As a designer, Donatella knows her clientele’s preferences intimately and is meeting the demand to the last curve and stitch.
Crystal mesh, sprinkles of silicone and pearl bring designs that somehow announce themselves to the fashion world, delighting an old audience, and attracting new fans. The traditional Versace collections, which added an almost artistic angle to couture is now in combination with a design philosophy that brings the stability of a company, entrenched in the history of fashion design.