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Donatella Versace - Biography

Donatella was destined to become a fashion icon

donatella versace
Faye James
Faye JamesSenior Editor
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Who is Donatella Versace?

Donatella Versace, born in the picturesque Italian town of Reggio di Calabria in 1955, was destined to become a fashion icon. As the youngest of four children, she grew up in a family that valued both business and the art of dressmaking. Her father was a successful businessman, while her mother was a skilled dressmaker who catered to the aristocracy.

Her early life

From an early age, Donatella shared a special bond with her older brother Gianni, who was ten years her senior. They had a close relationship, and even at the tender age of 11, Donatella would accompany Gianni to discos and nightclubs. Gianni's free-spirited nature inspired Donatella, and she once revealed in an interview, "Gianni was the wildest. Then he pushed me to be wild. Now I'm the wilder one; it's his fault."

In the 1970s, after attending Florence University, Donatella joined Gianni's emerging fashion company. Initially involved in handling public relations, her influence went far beyond that role. Many credit her as being Gianni's muse, as her constant input shaped the creative direction of the brand. Gianni himself acknowledged her impact, stating, "If my sister wants to do something, okay. If she doesn't like a sketch, I will cancel it."

Her career

Donatella's visionary ideas propelled the Versace label to greater heights. She introduced the concept of using well-known models for the brand's catwalk shows, understanding that it would generate significant press coverage. In the 1990s, she was given the freedom to design her own line, Versus, which showcased her keen sense of the cultural zeitgeist. Donatella's frequent presence in nightspots and her understanding of what the younger generation desired made her invaluable to Gianni.

Tragically, Gianni's murder in 1997 forever altered Donatella's life. In the face of this devastating loss, she gathered her family and sought solace in a private resort in the Caribbean. The Spring-Summer 98 collection was canceled. However, Donatella had an epiphany: the show must go on. Gianni had entrusted her with the responsibility of taking over in case of such an eventuality.

She embraced her newfound role, and her inaugural collection received acclaim, attended by numerous celebrities. But in her typical humble fashion, Donatella attributed the success to the dedication of the seamstresses and models, dedicating the show to "Gianni's love of work and to our entire staff, whose incredible love and devotion was so precious to our brother and means so much to us."

Donatella brought a fresh sensibility to the house of Versace. Today, the label resonates with the modern career woman, as Donatella draws inspiration from the lives of her influential friends like Madonna, Trudie Styler, Naomi Campbell, and Courtney Love. While retaining her brother's original ethos, she infuses the collections with greater variety and adaptability.

With flourishing profits and rave reviews in the fashion industry, Donatella enjoys her current success. She is a proud mother of two children, Allegra, born in 1986, who inherited the majority of Gianni's multi-million dollar estate, and Daniel, her younger sibling by three years. Donatella is married to Paul Beck, a former model, although they typically lead separate lives.

As a jet-setting fashion house head, Donatella's opulent lifestyle knows no bounds. With Versace houses and luxurious five-star hotels scattered across the globe, she embraces the peripatetic existence reserved for the truly wealthy. Her exquisite taste is reflected in her lavish diamond collection, with gems described as "bigger than a very big grape, but smaller just than an apricot" as reported by the Daily Telegraph.

Her philosophy

Donatella's philosophy can be summed up by her reaction to a journalist's question about reverting to her natural hair color. Dismissing the notion of "natural," she contemplates its meaning and rejects the idea. 

"Natural is not about the hair or the face," she said. "I do not believe in totally natural for women. Rubbish! For me, natural has something to do with food, something to do with vegetables." In her own unique way, Donatella Versace embodies excessive glamour and remains an influential figure in the world of fashion.

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