Donatella Versace (born May 2, 1955) is an affluent Italian fashion designer, like her famous brother, the late Gianni Versace, the founder of the Versace clothing brand. Her current title is Vice-President of the Versace Group and Chief Designer of the fashion line. She holds a great amount of Versace stock, totalling 20% of the entire stock market assets of Versace. Her brother, Santo Versace, owns 30%. Donatella's daughter Allegra Versace inherited 50% of the company stocks after Gianni Versace died; the two were very close.
Early life and fashion debut
Donatella Versace was born in the Italian
city of Reggio di Calabria
, the youngest of three children in her family, her father being a personal financier
to the Italian aristocracy
. In the mid 1970s, Donatella followed her older brother, Giovanni ("Gianni"), to pursue knitwear design in Florence
. Donatella had planned to work for her brother as Public Relations
, but she was more valuable to Gianni as a "muse and critic", according to Donatella during an interview with Vogue
Through her closeness to her brother's enterprises, Donatella plunged into the fashion world. A decade later, during the 1980s, Gianni launched a perfume dedicated to her, Blonde
, and gave her her own diffusion label, Versus
, which remains a well-known Versace inner line. Donatella has spoken briefly of her relationship with British presenter Dale Winton
The growth of Donatella and Versace
Donatella is the first designer to use notable celebrities to broadcast her clothing
into the world on the catwalk
and other public media such as advertisements
, instead of using unknown models
. Another member of the growing Versace
success was Santo Versace
S.p.A., Donatella's brother, who is also a fashion designer
and the owner of Finanziaria Versace, an established Versace
branch. Donatella 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, Madonna
, Christina Aguilera
, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
and Demi Moore
, in high esteem in the Versace
advertising sector, making them and other A-List
celebrities the persona and image of Versace
Tragedy in Miami
On July 15
, outside the re-constructed Versace Mansion, also known as Casa Casuarina
, in Miami
, Gianni Versace
was shot dead by Andrew Cunanan
, a suspected serial-killer who committed suicide before apprehension was possible. Her brother's murder was not only a blow to the South Beach, Miami community but also to the fashion industry. Donatella and other family patriarchs temporarily moved the family to a secluded, private resort in the Caribbean
. Consequently, the Spring-Summer 1998 Collection was cancelled as were the indirect operations of the company
. The Official Funeral
of Gianni Versace
was held at the Roman Catholic Milan Cathedral
, where over 2,000 mourners attended a traditional service, which was originally highly controversial. Notable guests in attendance were Diana Princess of Wales
, Sir Elton John
, Naomi Campbell
, Giorgio Armani
, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy
, Courtney Love
, Luciano Pavarotti
, Carla Fendi
, Karl Lagerfeld
and many other famous fashion designers
. Elton John and Sting sang a setting of Psalm 23, "The Lord is My Shepherd", broadcast to millions of viewers worldwide.
Promotion and success
A year and three days after Gianni's death in July 1998, 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, Donatella is just as famous for her celebrity entourage and glittering parties. 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
In his 2008 memoir, Life with My Sister Madonna, Christopher Ciccone wrote that he and Donatella went on a three-day cocaine binge before her Paris couture debut.
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 world's tallest hotel, 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.
Plans for the Palazzo Versace Dubai were announced in May of 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 Pallazo Versace hotel ever to be built, and the second hotel in Dubai to boast a wide range of Versace collections.
In October of 2002, Gianni and Donatella's most famously designed Versace clothing were displayed in a special exhibit of the historical Victoria and Albert Museum of London to be honored for extraordinary fashion success and symbolism worldwide.
Family and residence
Donatella and her former husband, American model Paul Beck
, have two children, daughter Allegra
(born June 30
) and son Daniel.
Donatella's deceased brother, Gianni Versace, had a large collection of homes worldwide that have since been sold, most notably his Manhattan, New York double-wide townhome, estimated to be valued at over $21,000,000 USD. Donatella Versace does not permanently live in one residence, but consistently travels from one to the other.
Heiress to the throne
It was in 1997, while watching television, that Allegra Versace
saw the familiar face of her uncle, Gianni, on the news station and found out that he had been assassinated. Not only was Gianni an icon
of the fashion industry, he was the highest figure in the Versace
Group, leaving no one to rule the vast network of clothing lines and branches of his company. His Last Will and Testament
stated Allegra Versace was to receive majority inheritance and titles. After Donatella, Allegra Versace
is the heiress to the remainder of the extensive Versace fortune, including vast real estate holdings worldwide.
Allegra Versace, upon her eighteenth birthday, received the primary inheritance from her beloved uncle, Gianni, the staggering sum of $700 million.
- "Only you understand how I express what I feel" --Gianni to Allegra
She was not only left an enormous wealth and heritage from her uncle, Allegra was given Gianni's villa on Lake Como, Italy and a large townhome in one of Manhattan's most affluent neighborhoods. To this day she stands to inherit the company, as her brother, Daniel, inherited Gianni's vast rare artwork collection (since sold). While the Versace Group is not as financially robust as it was in its earlier and peak stages, the Versace Group has publicly made clear that Donatella and Allegra Versace will hopefully bring a new face and attraction to the Versace label.
Donatella has been regularly impersonated by Maya Rudolph on the American comedy skit show Saturday Night Live, which airs on the NBC network. Maya and Donatella are good friends.
She has held cameo performances in many films relating to fashion and its industry, such as Zoolander. Also, in many other films, including the 2006 hit The Devil Wears Prada, the mention of "Donatella" is used sporadically.
In March 2007, entertainment dish blog "RagsToRichies" reported Versace having an incessant fear of shorter men. The wild claim ended up part of the satire "BBC Presents". Versace denies the claim although reports seem to mirror the accusation of her prejudice.
In the new hit ABC series Ugly Betty a fictional character, Fabia, played by actress Gina Gershon, is a parody of Donatella.