Gianni Versace will never be forgotten. His dynamic designs were legendary, worn by everyone from Princess Diana to Bruce Springsteen. Unlike other designers of his caliber, the man was never afraid to manage everything from designing to retailing, garnering him an impressive reputation as the one man show who could do everything. That diverse range of skills was what made Gianni Versace Donna, his official label, such an incredible success. There’s another reason the name Versace is so seared in the fashion world’s memory. In 1997 at the height of his popularity, the man was shot dead at his Miami Beach mansion. The murder became of the most mysterious crimes in history to rock the fashion beauty world. American Crime Story recently released photos from their 3rd season, which will retell this grisly tale. Here are some less controversial Gianni Versace facts you should know.
HE WAS BORN IN ITALY
Gianni started his journey as a fashion designer in Italy under the tutelage of his mother. From a young age, she showed him everything she learned as a dressmaker from cutting fabric to hemming clothes.
HIS CAREER BEGAN AT 26
Though raised by a seamstress and trained in fashion since very young, it wasn’t until his mid-twenties that Gianni set out to make a name for himself. Leaving his mother’s shop in Reggio Calabria, he set out on a freelance career in Milan.
HE WAS ALWAYS AMBITIOUS
For the newly professional Versace, Milan was a dream come true. There, he worked for labels like Genny, Callaghan, and Complice while amassing a portfolio that would allow him to start his own successful label someday.
HIS INDEPENDENT DEBUT WAS AT AN ART MUSEUM
Six years after his big move, Gianni launched his own collection at Milan’s Palazzo della Permanente Art Museum. Soon after he was opening his first boutique and establishing a name as one of Italy’s finest new designers. Within 10 years, Versace was head of a fashion empire worth over $800 million.
THAT ICONIC LOGO
Though Italian, it was Greek mythology that captivated Versace. After all, the town where he was born was once called Great Greece. Perhaps it was one of the inspirations behind his company logo, a feminized Medusa with wavy hair and voluptuous lips.
Gianni’s older brother Santos was instrumental in sustaining the brand after Versace’s murder, but it was his little sister Donatella who basked in the spotlight. The two went everywhere together. Even his lover Antonio D’Amico couldn’t compete with her as a muse or confidante.
A CELEBRITY FAVORITE
Everyone wanted to be a part of the Versace empire. More than most fashion designers, Gianni was truly a celebrity and people flocked to him for friendship as well as dresses. His influenced spanned genre and class encompassing royalty, Hollywood stars, and pop rock icons.
Every now and then, great designers come up with something so incredible it launches the wearer to instant fame. This was the case with Liz Hurley when she accompanied Hugh Grant to his film premiere in 1994. Versace’s black dress design held together by gold safety pins was whimsical, sophisticated, and just risky enough to go down in the history books.
When you have a multi-million-dollar empire, you can afford an elaborate residence, but Versace outdid most rich men with his abode. An Italian-inspired mansion with millions of mosaic tiles adorning the walls and outdoor pool, this was fashion grandeur at its finest.
A FAMILY MAN
Along with his brother and sister, Versace had others who shared his life like family. To him, his nieces and nephews were just like children. Then there was his partner, Antonio D’Amico, and a few select celebrities like Elton John and Princess Diana.
With shows like American Crime Story recalling the events surrounding Versace’s tragic death, it’s easy to let tragedy outshine the man. Don’t make that mistake. Gianni Versace is far greater than his shocking murder and left a legacy of style and beauty few modern designers have been able to match.
— Alice Becker