2 December 2015

Gianni Versace – designer

Meteoric rise of the talented son of a dressmaker

Gianni Versace, the founder of the international fashion house, Versace, was born on this day in 1946 in Reggio di Calabria in the south of Italy.

Reggio di Calabria, on the Italian coast facing Sicily, is the home town of Gianni Versace
The coastal city of Reggio di Calabria,
birthplace of designer Gianni Versace

He went on to start a highly successful clothing label and also designed costumes for the theatre and films. He was a personal friend of the late Princess Diana and numerous celebrities, including Elton John and Madonna.

Christened Giovanni Maria Versace, the designer literally learnt his trade at his mother’s knee as she was herself a dressmaker and employed him as an apprentice in her business from an early age.

He moved north to Milan to work in the fashion industry for other designers and, after presenting his own first signature collection in the city, opened a boutique in Via della Spiga in 1978. His career immediately took off and his exclusive designs were highly sought after.

View over fashion capital Milan
 from roof of Duomo

He became one of the top designers of the 1980s and 90s and employed his brother, Santo, and his sister, Donatella, in his successful and profitable business.

One of his most famous creations was a black dress held together by safety pins, worn by the actress, Elizabeth Hurley, to a film premiere.

In 1997, at just 50 years of age, Versace was shot dead on the steps of his Miami home after returning from a morning walk. The gunman killed himself with the same weapon a few days later and no clear motive for the murder has ever been established by the American police.

Travel tip:

Reggio di Calabria is the biggest city in the region of Calabria, near the ‘toe’ of the Italian peninsula. Its seafront promenade facing Messina in Sicily across the Straits, has been described as ‘the most beautiful kilometre of Italy’.

Travel tip:

The Versace boutique in Milan is at the heart of the fashion district in Via Monte Napoleone, a short walk from the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The top designers all have outlets in the ‘quadrilateral’ bordered by Via Manzoni, Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga (where Versace first started) and Via Sant’Andrea.


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