Donatella is the modern representation of Medusa, a term that in ancient Greek means “protector”, “guardian”. She has been defending the house that her brother, Gianni, founded in 1978 for 19 years. ” This palace is part of Versace and Versace is my life “, she explains to S Moda exclusively from Milan. « This space reflects my emotions. Every corner speaks of who I am . It is a place where my feelings endure », she reveals. And for a moment the baroque splendor of these halls – betraying her fascination with classical art and architecture – becomes almost intimate. But soon her armor reappears, in the form of a thought accelerator. She decided long ago not to hit the rewind button. “The past bores me,” she says. «I am obsessed with the future. Versace is much more than a brand for me. It’s my family, my DNA. Tradition runs through my veins . But my desire is to take that heritage and reinvent it.”

“I like changes,” he insists. Although his perfect uniform – platinum blonde hair, clingy silhouette and dizzying heels – seems to resist following the dictation of her words. “Why pretend that everything stays the same? I prefer to follow the rhythm that this industry imposes. Fashion is transformation, it’s looking forward, and you have to do it fast. Break the rules every day. It makes no sense to continue anchored in an obsolete model. Photo: Nuria Rius.Detail of one of the wings of Versace’s apartment on the first floor of his historic palace at Via Gesù, 12, Milan.

The strength within that competitive circuit is measured by the media coverage. «The jellyfish is very important for my brand and for my family. It is one of the most recognizable logos in the world. I am fascinated by how it expresses the complexities and human passions , even better than words. For me, it symbolizes bravery, power, strength and courage. The logo is fundamental; and when you have such a powerful one, why should you be ashamed? », she says proudly. “But a brand is not just that. The cut has to be incredible; the silhouette, fresh; and the ideas, provocative».

The myth of captivating beauty

The house that Gianni founded “is part of pop culture,” recalls Donatella. Nicki Minaj, Jay Z, Lil’ Kim, Eminem… Versace is the second most mentioned luxury brand in hip hop songs (according to data from 1995 to 2015). «I have always let myself be infected by music, to recharge energy, to inspire me and not to lose sight of what happens on the street. I like to be the one who chooses the songs that are played on the catwalk and the bands that play at our events . I need to turn it on full volume wherever I am. In my office, at home, in the studio, in the car. We would finish sooner if you asked me when I don’t listen to music, which is when I’m sleeping. Beth Ditto/Gossip, Nine Inch Nails, The Rolling Stones and 1975… I could go on.”Photo: Nuria Rius.The models wear looks from the Versace spring-summer 2016 collection. 

“I opened my last show with Transition , a song by producer DJ Violet that was recorded for International Women’s Day. I found the message inspiring and it fit with the positive attitude of the collection . Do powerful women still blow men away?” asks Donatella. In Greek mythology, that is what Medusa did with those who stared into her eyes. Well, the contemporary version of the story is very different: “I think that today powerful women do what they want and they don’t care what they think.”

The sexual charge is perceived in each seam. “There are so many definitions of what is sexy! A woman’s personality can be sexy, her strength, her determination. Also her body, of course, with what she decides to show or hide. We have always played with the genre, but in our own way. Our suits create the perfect masculine V silhouette, with broad shoulders and a modeled torso. There are no ambiguities here. But society has changed; and my vision too . Today they have more freedom to express themselves and be true to themselves.Photo: Nuria Rius.

The feminine discourse of fashion

«The Versace house has been key in my career. It was Gianni who called me to shoot Madonna for the 1995 Couture campaign and posted the ad with the headline “Versace presents Madonna for Testino”. It was the first time that they called me by my last name, a gesture that I always believed was reserved for the greats of photography like Avedon, Newton, Penn… Versace is part of my history. In Donatella I see someone who knows how to strengthen and promote the brand ,” Mario Testino tells S Moda . Season after season, she feels the need to search within herself for the strength and confidence to keep moving forward.Photo: Nuria Rius.In the private wing, there are the rooms, which welcome friends of the house and distinguished guests. 

As a creative director, she claims that her duty is to raise her voice for women. « Versace has always fought for female empowerment, helping us to feel strong and proud », She says. “Like any female, I am faced with guesswork about who I am and what I can do. We have to fight for our voice to be heard and show that we are worth more than them. Today we can be what we want: I am an artistic director, businesswoman, mother, activist and friend. In the 20th century, being a woman in the world of fashion was more difficult. And I don’t mean just being a designer. Today there are women in positions of responsibility: executive directors… There is a lot to do, but the first steps have already been taken».