“Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live.”
The late Italian designer Gianni Versace thrived on this precept. A consummate collector, he acquired European period furniture, Sèvres china, Italian glass, and Impressionist, Modern, and contemporary art.
When he renovated his Art Deco mansion in Miami Beach, he left no corner undecorated. It ranged from marble reliefs on discreet corners and iron palm frond chandeliers that echoed the plaster trompe l’oeil patterns on the walls, to a Charles X ormulu console and 18th-century French andirons co-existing with Roy Lichtenstein’s comic-book-like paintings.
“It is the house that really belongs to me, reflecting a mirror image of all that I am, for better or worse,” said Gianni Versace.
Famous for his elaborately decorated and occasionally shocking gowns, Versace had a dynamic influence in the glamorizing of fashion in the ’80s and ’90s. He was considered the first designer to acknowledge the magnitude of pop culture in fashion, inviting celebrities to grace his shows and manipulating his advertising around sexual imagery.
“When historians look back on our era, Versace will indeed stand as a pivotal figure… chief among them that he legitimized vulgarity,” wrote the New York Times. Ironically, his trademarks—bold colors, elaborate prints, and the strange mishmash of motifs lifted from history—were considered idiosyncrasies of an aspirational lifestyle.
Two of the brand icons were born out of the designer’s fascination with classical art and Greek mythology. The Medusa was a ravishing woman, but whoever looked at her was completely mesmerized.
“Mr. Gianni Versace envisioned his creations to have a great impact on people. Each Versace piece is created to astound, overwhelm and surprise you for the rest of your life,” said the Versace spokesperson in an e-mailed questionnaire.
The Greek key fret, a repetition of horizontal and vertical designs, is also a distinct symbol derived from Greek architecture.
Since his death in 1997, the Versace SpA is run by his older brother Santo, the president, under the creative direction of his younger sister Donatella, who has continued Gianni’s vision of fusing style, classical art and flamboyance.
Today, the brand is bolstering its image by offering interior design services. Among its clients is Milano Residences by Century Properties, which is said to be the fastest-selling among all the Versace projects worldwide. The branding and the lure of the Versace lifestyle helped tremendously in pushing the sales.
“My brother Gianni loved beauty in all its forms and expressions,” said Santo. “To make something out of this passion, he created the unique Versace style. He ensured that art would be worn, and that fashion and design would merge and come into our homes to be experienced every day. Art, beauty and charm belong to the Versace DNA.”
The Philippines had a taste of the Versace world when a home and lifestyle exhibit was showcased at the lobby of Pacific Star Building and the showroom of Century Properties Inc. The latter is building Milano Residences, a Versace-designed 53-story residential condominium in Century City, a complex that will rise along Kalayaan Avenue, Makati. Santo went on a blitz to promote their joint venture.
The exhibit featured the latest collection of fringed clothes designed by Donatella Versace, flatware and other accessories.
“The Versace world is not just expressed in fashion, but in the full spectrum of art and creativity: accessories, perfumes, mobile phones, watches and everything else you can see and admire today. From our love of beauty comes home furnishings that tell of a genuine lifestyle,” said Santo. “It is a label that embodies the famous characteristics of the ‘Made in Italy’ world with its style, quality and individuality.”
The latest furniture and accessories from Versace Maison were flown in from Italy to decorate the one-bedroom and three-bedroom model units. Luxury was expressed in deep colors and furniture in tufted leather, lacquered wood with metal inserts, chrome and glass finishes. The plates and vases either carried the iconic Medusa and Greek fret keys or baroque prints.
Ten years ago, Versace was the first fashion brand to merge fashion with hotels, resorts and residential interior design projects. The foray into interior design strengthened the brand’s position.
Among its landmark works are Versace Palace in Gold Coast, Australia, Plaza Hotel in New York, and luxury residential projects such as Damac Tower in Beirut, Jeddah Residences in Saudi Arabia, and Palazzo Versace in Dubai.
For the Milano Residences, Versace will also furnish the amenities and public spaces—the hallways, lounge, swimming pool, library, pool garden and spa.
Says the Versace spokesperson, “The essence and uniqueness of Versace Home style is to combine the appeal of precious materials with beautiful and decorative innovations. It expresses Versace’s highest standard for elegance and the quality is, of course, excellent, due to the attention toward detail and superb craftsmanship.
“Most of the ideas of the Versace Maison collection take inspiration from fashion. For Milano Residences, the design concept echoes the latest ready-to-wear collections. The iconic Versace Greek key motif, reinterpreted in a glamorous and contemporary style by Donatella Versace, becomes the overall signature for the interiors, such as in the lobby, wellness area, and even in the pool lounge.”
In the future, Versace plans to continue high-end residential projects in key locations worldwide, in partnership with prime real estate developers.