Wednesday, 9 June 2010

An ode to Versace

versace spring 2010, milan / pic credit: getty images

the house of versace announced their financial results on monday, and the picture ain't rosy: total sales for 2009 fell 20% to €268m as compared to 2008. the company posted an overall net loss of €50m as compared to €0.4m loss in 2008. it is heartbreaking to hear, the italian powerhouse can't breakeven, and has been loss making for years.

this isn't a "talk me down" post. rather, this is an ode to versace.

donatella versace, may 2010, washington dc / pic credit: getty images

if you grew up at a period where every teenager had an insatiable appetite for glossy fashion, you would have followed the stories unfolding at versace: gianni being murdered outside his residence, donatella's addiction, allegra's health. back in the 90s, who can forget the stunning images from their campaigns (amber valleta and the poodle), cindy, naomi, linda and christy walking down the runway in unity. we all love versace, i'm sure we all do. i've never seen an atelier versace dress that failed to wow. oscar worthy dresses are the DNA of the versace dynasty. however spectacular the vision and direction, you need sales to carry on the business.

allegra versace, francesca versace and santo versace / pics credit: getty images

versace is a privately owned business, shareholders include donatella versace, donatella's daughter and majority shareholder allegra versace, and donatella's brother santo versace. as a privately owned business, not much financial analysis is available to the general public. they cited the economic downturn as the reason for the lacklustre sales in 2009. true to a cetain point: just how many people are willing to fork out thousands of dollars for a knockout dress, which you might only get to wear once.

can you cite a memorable versace fragrance, or a must have it bag from versace? accessories are the cash cow of luxury retail, and i really feel there's vast room for improvement. in most cases, catwalk shows are very expensive to produce, and i doubt they really sell many of the pieces featured. but they do it because the long flowy dresses creates a fantasy, a vision. this leaves people wanting a piece of the action, and that translate into sales of lipsticks, perfumes, belts, wallets etc. versace has a strong vision, their womenswear show churn out the most glamorous of looks. they consistently dress the most girls at the oscars.

but they lack attractive entry points for customers wanting a piece of the story.

tom ford "a single man"

when tom ford famously left gucci in 2004, the world watched with bated breathe: is he going to work his magic at the house of versace? will versace finally clean up and move from trashy to dressy? we all know he didn't. it was a time when donatella wasn't at her best, and elton john persuaded her to seek help. we wished ford was the knight in shining armour.

what's amazing about tom ford's movie "a single man", is that it is beautifully executed, and it is also a full length 90mins lookbook/catalogue/commercial for his own label. hands on your heart, you wanted those black framed glasses, you wanted colin firth's wardrobe, you wanted his neatly stacked gorgeous bottles of toiletries in the opening scenes. i know i did, i bought the black framed "cary" sunglasses. i wanted so badly, scents from his "private blend" range.

thing is, ford provided the entry level products alongside well cut suits at exorbitant prices. before he even started ready to wear for his label, he did sunglasses, he did scents. and that is why i worship the ground he tread on. his vision is unparalleled. accessories provide the much needed revenue to achieve the bigger things. entry level products doesn't mean cheap: a bottle of ford's "private blend" retails for about £250. pricey for a bottle of perfume, but in money terms £250 buys you a piece of tom ford, his vision and a lingering feeling of "a single man". and that's achievable.

versace menswear spring 2010, milan / pic credit: getty images

versace's shows are much like ford's movie: they create fantasies, it leaves us wanting for more. but i wonder how many women actually get to capture that essence. fashion loves a come back kid. i do not think i am alone, we are all rooting for the glorious return of the versace dynasty. there are lots of possibilities: the christopher kane designed versus collection is still at infancy stage, their accessories, their point of sales, their choice of spokesperson, their most famous asset: the medusa logo.

so this is an ode to versace. much like a football fan supporting the world cup, i am still rooting for the house of versace to be profitable once more.



  1. Over exposure in the 90s and too many diffusion labels hurt. If they were going to hit up Kane, why not let him do VERSACE? I haven't seen Versus outside of an outlet store ever. I think Versace doesn't mean anything to the luxury customer, except questionable taste.

  2. I kid you not. "Kitchest" was my word verification! LOL.

  3. Great post.

    I hadn't noticed Versace had failed on the entry-level products ground until you mentioned it and, suddenly, all their financial woes were much more understandable. It's frustrating that highly expensive runway shoes are staged at least twice a year only for most of the showcased product not to ever be sold. And yet, it's the unsettling truth of luxury fashion.

    There's a great book (I'm sure you've read it already but...) called Deluxe by Dana Thomas which addresses a lot of these issues.


  4. Gianni is probably doing somersaults in his grave wanting to hire a hitman to kill baby sister Donatella mafia style. 50 million loss??

    Someone should fire themselves before it's too late. Versace has lost it's essence...


  5. LO: diffusion labels are a prob, but they've cut down. i believe most are still on licences, eg versace jeans couture *cringe*. wasn't there istante or something like that which closed too

    versus is starting out, small range and gradually available now in dept stores. the ones at outlets are pre-kane era i believe.

    MM: i've not read any of dana's books, heard so much about her, i probably should. versace has vision, i just felt it could be managed a little better.

    cactus: they will turn around. hence the post, i am rooting for them

  6. sadly, fashion is not just about the aesthetics, the beauty and the glamor. it's also a business.. a complicated, expensive and risky one at that. thus i agree that better management is the key. product line expansion maybe.. it's what companies in the maturity stage do to prolong their stay at the peak of the business. else they have no other direction to go but down.

  7. i read that those glasses were not tom ford but vintage

  8. Versace is one of my favourite Brand! I hate Tacky Dsquared and i Hate Tacky things but versace has something more: LUXURY!
    Donnatella first collection was a very successfull collection..It was perfect because it was the time for evolution..all the LOGOMANIA and FLASHY from the beginning of the 90's was dead it was minimalism time!
    But, after that it was a complete disaster...She destroy the image of the brand because of the catwalk show. Many people thing that catwalk is not important but in the versace's case it's very very important...In the beyonce's "Crazy in love" video at the end, there's a Versace dress..It's not a tacky dress but when you see this dress in the catwalk you don't want that!

    IMO the 2008 FW collection was an opportunity for Versace to make a true statement...A more "mature" image, with less Bling...the accessoiries where fabulous....
    And i think that Versace is too expensive very, very expensive..They need a clean shoes & Bags lines...they need consulting from a Magazine....

    Versace it's like a "tresor national"...we must save that!!

  9. Brilliant, as usual.
    I think there is so much to do with Versace's legacy. In style, in communication, in accessories, and so much more.
    We all want to be, once more, petrified by the Medusa.

  10. I remember when I was a kid in the 90s, versace was THE fashion brand, i didn't know any brands, but I knew versace, it was everywhere!
    It used to represent fun and sadly i think donatella took away that fun by trying to "clean up" it's image by making it all sleek and simple, something that was the complete oppiste of what the company represented..
    i think Balmain has that feeling of what versace was, no suprise that it's such a success.
    I like christopher kane, but frankly, i think he's completely wrong for the brand.
    Here's hoping things will change for Versace..

    FYI i DO distinctly remember a versace perfume, blue jeans, wasn't that a big hit? i knew tons of people thta had that.

  11. I saw the movie a single was good - i liked it..

  12. Hello 00o00 - lovely to meet you last night, look forward to hearing more about your watch-buying antics!

  13. Good post! The last look is awesome!

    Would be great if you could post more from your own outfits!

  14. they also need more basic bags for ladies. all the stuff they've done till now, accessorie wise, is still too expensive and too *frou frou*

    they used to do makeup but for some reason they stopped

  15. Doesn't Kane already consult for the mainline? I think he has done an amazing job with the Versus line and it got rave reviews. The Versace house's solution is not to go minimal, because it never was that. It is to dig under the house's history and go back to it's heritage, revamp it and apply it to today's costumer. As simple as that.

  16. I have always loved Versace's jeans! I am not so sure about the rest of their fashion. Sometimes very good, sometimes less inspirational.

  17. thanks guys for the very thoughtful comments, glad to see that there are many who cared for versace too.


  18. Less than stellar times but I have mad love for Versace as it was the epitome of fashion while I was just a kid and will always be an icon. I totally agree that they should focus on their accessories for obvious reason stated. Cheer up kiddos, that 50 million loss is sucky but you'll be back in no time! :)

  19. this is a very very good read... and i must agree to all that you've written

  20. This post it's with perfect timing. 2 days ago Donatella appointed a fresh kid as senior-designer for womenwear. I don't want to say names, but he won the L'Oreal fashion award for his BA graduate collection - CSM(2009). We've been discussing about the medusa logo, bringing back the old Gianni vision and many more. You won't get disappointed, be prepared for September.

  21. wow kiko, you work for versace? sounds like a good revamp. very excited about it. i hope menswear will make a turnaround too

  22. No, no yet, but I've been working as assistant to the new designer for an year now. He moved there 3 days ago will see, if I will go to too. No idea about the menswear, but if I have chance to move will keep you in touch. =))

  23. I love Versace and always will. I met Donatella last week at Convivio opening in Milan and I can say she's a very nice woman, so human and smiley. Her collections aren't so "easy" as other labels, I think that her SS 2010 womenswear is just PERFECTION, the colours, the cuts and the shapes of dresses don't need critics. Maybe she could work better for accessories but, honestly, I think that her fragrances sell better than you believe, her Versace Home line is doing better so fingers crossed for Versace new stuff!

    @kiKo: good luck for your next job!

    Dorian Gray

  24. good luck to Versace.

    fashion does create fantasy, however at the end of the day, you've got to deliver SOMETHING and not just a flashy 24 carat gold sequinned dress. even the definition of fantasy itself has evolved over times. consumers are way smarter than that.

    p/s: I have to agree with the wonderfully genius, late McQueen (on his view on armani and versace)..

  25. Versace is one of the my fevorite brand , I just recently bought two jeans from my home town Versace shop, but your give versace collection is really very cool.
    Versace dresses on sale


what's he wearing?