Friday 9 December 2016

Donatella's playful homage to brother

The Versace for H&M collection marks an ending and a new beginning, says Constance Harris

Constance Harris

Published 14/11/2011 | 06:00

'Who's ready to f**king party?" shouted hot female rap sensation Nicki Minaj to the Versace room of fabulously dressed fashion editors, celebrities, super- models and staff of Donatella Versace and H&M.

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Pier 57, a run-down warehouse on Manhattan's Lower West Side, was turned into a playground for fashion and celebrity at this year's most exciting high-street launch -- Versace for H&M, which goes on sale worldwide next Thursday and will be exclusively available in H&M South King Street, Dublin 2, and Dundrum Town Centre.

The celebs attending were known Versace followers and friends, including Uma Thurman, Blake Lively, Sofia Coppola, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Hudson, Alan Cumming, Stephen Dorff, Helena Christensen and Linda Evangelista.

Italian was definitely the first language of the evening. And despite New York being practically a smoke-free zone, there was no stopping the guests enjoying their Marlboros.

Unspeakably handsome men were dressed in figure-hugging black suits, all sporting short beards and horn-rimmed glasses a la Tom Ford's A Single Man, while the women wore either sexy LBDs or outlandish Versace pieces from their own archives.

Minaj was dressed in awesomely OTT multicoloured, clashing prints, bejewelled tracksuit jacket, top and sprayed-on leggings, a "special" from the Versace for H&M collection. With her lush afro hair she was, as Paula Reed of Grazia tweeted next to me, an amazing concoction of jewels, green ferns and fronds. I felt I had been transported back to the days of Salt-N-Pepa music and Paris in the mid-Nineties when black music artists were layering up haute couture as if it was candy.

And the awesome Nicki proved to be just the warm-up act for fashion's finest, fun night out. After her there followed an incredible hour of the lover-not-a-fighter of music himself, Prince. Dressed in Versace red silk shirt and skinny jeans and quintessential Versace gold jewellery, he was in incredible form. I think to a man and woman, we all fell in love with him.

In the interview the day after the show, Donatella asked if we had enjoyed ourselves, and then smiled like the queen who knew her subjects were passed out on pleasure, she having delivered a show beyond their wildest dreams.

It was a night that Donatella's beloved brother, Gianni Versace, the maestro of fabulousness, would have been proud of. It was a night when, from the entertainment, to the crowd, to the clothes on the catwalk, maximalism was the modus operandi.

"Austerity", "minimalism", "investment pieces" were, on this occasion, foul words never to be uttered.

Versace for H&M is perhaps the most exciting designer collaboration yet by the Scandinavian high-street brand. Creative director for H&M, Margareta van den Bosch can be proud of a job well done.

The collection of 43 ensembles, jewellery, accessories, shoes and homewares, for both men and women, in electric colours, dramatic prints, chain-mail dresses, studded tops, skirts, shorts and leather pieces, was not only true to the House of Versace, but as Donatella stated later in her interview, an opportunity to pay homage to the archives of her beloved brother and genius, Gianni, in a way she cannot do with Versace as it is today.

In her interview, Donatella explained why she wouldn't be doing a Gianni revival at Versace. His archives are very precious to her, she told us. And they are his work. Not hers. Not the work of Versace as it is today.

But she wanted a generation of young people to know who he was and why he was so lauded. H&M was the perfect vehicle to select samples of his work and showcase it in such a way that a new generation could "get him".

The Versace for H&M collection makes me wish I was 20 again. It's so bold and youthful, exciting and sexy. Definitely one for the young, the beautiful and the brave.

Versace for H&M is sexy and boldly confident. It consists of a tight collection of electric-coloured, as well as black, natty suits for men (jackets from €129.95, trousers from €49.95), with studded T-shirts (from €19.95) and some geometric-print separates (from €39.95) and shoes (from €99.95).

For girls the choice is larger, and pure Versace; from the iconic Versace frieze motif, stud-embellished, gladiator-style skirts (from €59.95), leather jackets, trench coats and stunning LBD (from €59.95), to the sexy fitted dresses and full-length gowns (from €69.95). A Miami-inspired print combined with lotus blossoms was gorgeously used in mini dresses and skirts with fringing, as well as tights, jeans (which were pure Eighties high-waisted), T-shirts and velour cropped jackets.

You can see more of the collection on the H&M website. In January 2012, there will also be a cruisewear collection to be sold exclusively online. Unfortunately, Ireland will not be able to access it.

For those of you who are dying to know, Donatella is much better looking in the flesh. Petite, lightly tanned, sporting her iconic dark eye-shadow and soft-pink lipstick, her hair is a gorgeous shade of platinum blonde.

"It is Gianni's fault I have blonde hair," she crooned in her throaty Italian voice, as she explained how he loved to dress her up when she was a teenager.

It is clear that she still feels keenly the loss of her brother.

But Versace for H&M is intended to be a "happy-happy" occasion. As Donatella explained, to finish a chapter, you have to go back to the beginning of the story. She sees this collection as marking an end. And a new beginning.

As Nicki rapped out at the end of her set, "Go-go, Donatella, go. Go-go, Donatella, go."

She does.

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