It can feel as if we’re living through some kind of Greek myth these days. We may not be at Atlantis-levels of destruction just yet but if you’re feeling bleak, then Donatella Versace has some good news. Like many other designers in Milan this week, Versace, the high priestess of opulent glamour, dialled-up, rather than dialled-down the house look.
In a digital-only show, we saw ancient, broken columns and Medusa heads in an underwater world, quiet and abandoned. Then in marched Versace’s troop of sleek, modern mermaids, in strong dark tailoring at first, soon evolving into an uplifting spectrum of colour and decoration. This was Versaceopolis; ‘a utopian settlement created on the seabed and populated by strong and confident men and women.’ Medusa, whose image Gianni Versace chose as the logo for his brand, ‘reigns there with courage and strength.’
With wet look hair and glistening skin, Joan Smalls paraded in a pleated magenta skirt with cascading ruffles and a matching shrunken, ab-framing cardigan, Irina Shayk epitomised under-the-sea glamour in a skintight, slit-to-the-thigh gown embellished with glitzy starfish tentacles, some artfully placed to create a bustier while Adut Akech’s finale look comprised a super-mini white dress with sparkling gold and silver shell bra, more glitzy starfish floating across it.
Scuba crop tops, oversized blazers, shrunken shorts and dramatic tiered skirts, cut high at the front for signature va-va-Versace sensuality were there too, a carnival of fashion fun. Donatella had revived the ‘trésors de la mer’ shell print which is a Versace emblem, splashing it across Bermuda shorts and shirts for men, fluted minis, bikinis and trouser suits for women.
It wasn’t just the clothes, exuberant and vibrant as they were, which made Versaceopolis feel like a great place to be. The label was once responsible for glorifying the supermodels of the early ‘90s, enhancing their glamour and legend with megawatt catwalk moments. Now that warm embrace has been extended to a greater variety of women. Precious Lee, Jill Kortleve and Alva Claire were three plus-size models who appeared in the show, sporting low-cut cocktail dresses, hip-skimming skirts with cut-outs and swishing mini dresses.
“This is such an historical moment and I can’t believe it actually happened, I’m still shaking,” Kortleve wrote on her Instagram. “It’s so unbelievable to work for brands I always dreamt of working for. I hope that we open the doors for a new generation with the same dreams.” The collection was a celebration of aquatic life and beauty, but it also felt like one of human diversity, too.
“A world made of popping colors and fantastic creatures and a world in which we can all coexist peacefully,” was how Donatella Versace described her spring/ summer offering. “This collection has an upbeat soul and is optimistic, dreamy, positive… These are clothes that bring you joy.”
Joy for her came too in being able to give her staff front-row seats for the first time ever, without the usual crowd of editors, buyers and celebrities to accommodate. ‘I cannot fully express how happy this made me: to know that they were there, watching the result of their hard work and, even if for a moment, live in the dream world that they have helped creating.’
In the immortal words of The Little Mermaid’s Sebastian the crab, “Under the sea/ Darling it’s better/ Down where it’s wetter/ Take it from me”.