At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Allegra Versace – heiress

‘Favourite niece’ who inherited Gianni fortune


Allegra Versace at a show in Milan with her mother, Donatella
Allegra Versace at a show in Milan
with her mother, Donatella
The heiress Allegra Versace, owner of half the Versace fashion empire, was born on this day in 1986 in Milan.

The daughter of Donatella Versace, the company’s chief designer and vice-president, she was the favourite niece of Gianni Versace, who founded the fashion house in 1978.

When Gianni was shot dead outside his mansion in Miami in July 1997, Allegra was just 11 years old but could look forward to becoming immensely rich after it was announced that her uncle had willed his share of the business, amounting to 50 per cent, when she reached her 18th birthday.

By the most recent valuation of the Versace group, this means Allegra – now 30 – has a personal fortune worth $800 million. The remainder of the empire is owned by her mother, who has 20 per cent, and Gianni’s older brother, Santo Versace, who has 30 per cent.

Yet the promise of wealth and privilege did not bring her happiness as a young woman.  The daughter of Paul Beck, a former Versace model to whom Donatella was briefly married, Allegra enjoyed a contented childhood in which she read books and played the piano given to her as a gift by Sir Elton John, a family friend, but her world was shattered when her uncle was killed.

A regular visitor to his home in Miami, she reportedly found out about his death watching a television news bulletin before her mother had a chance to break the news to her.  She is said to have been inconsolable at the funeral and though her mother sought counselling for her it did not stop Allegra sliding towards depression.

Donatella Versace 
By the time she reached adulthood and the riches she had been promised became real, she had become almost reclusive, rejecting the family name and, after studying French and art history at the University of California in Los Angeles, attempting to live in anonymity in New York, where she worked as a theatre dresser.

She developed anorexia nervosa, telling friends that she wished she were not a Versace, that she wanted to be no one, but that she could not escape.

It took until 2011 for Donatella to persuade her daughter to return to Italy and take up the role her uncle wanted her to fulfil, as a Versace director, although she still shuns the spotlight and has spent time working with a designer friend from outside the company, helping to organise shows and publicity without ever taking centre stage herself.

The Villa Fontanelle on Lake Como
Travel tip:

Gianni Versace’s homes included the Villa Le Fontanelle, a stunning waterfront property on Lake Como, where Allegra often visited him while he was in Italy. The grounds were designed by the art historian and landscape architect Sir Roy Strong and inside were a collection of 18th century paintings, red marble baths and a crystal chandelier that once hung in the Russian imperial palace in St Petersburg.  As well as 50 per cent of the company, the house was bequeathed to Allegra in Gianni’s will.

Travel tip:

The headquarters of the Versace empire in Milan is the Palazzo Versace in Via Gesù, which adjoins the five-star Four Seasons Hotel and stretches from the main entrance at No 10 towards Via della Spiga.  Via Gesù is off Via Montenapoleone, which is generally recognised as the centre of the Italian high fashion district of Milan, with virtually every top name having a presence there.  The Versace shop is at No 11.


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