Gianni Versace Biography

PHOTO: Gianni Versace

Gianni Versace’s clothes are known for their striking colours, materials and cuts: sexy to the point of vulgarity.

Like all good Italian boys, Gianni Versace learnt from his mother, who taught him first to cut and then make clothes, as she ran a small tailor-shop to support the family.

Gianni loved designing the clothes himself and soon he was selling them out of his mother’s shop. He moved on, furthering his understanding of the rag trade by working as a fabric buyer.

At 25, Gianni moved to Milan, where he designed his first prêt-a-porter collections for Genny, Complice and Callaghan. It was in a collection for Complice that Gianni’s own name was first included in the brand name.

The first Versace boutique opened in Milan’s Via della Spiga in 1978, and Gianni sold his own designs alongside other labels, though soon he was outselling all the other brands.

In the early 1980s, with the global economic boom and fashion for lavish, strongly stated clothing, Versace’s ‘look’ flourished and his boutiques spread around the world.

In 1985, Versace added the Instante label to his fashion empire. Similar in style to Versace couture, it was targeted at a less affluent and younger crowd.

The Versace label continued to grow and, with new collections, Gianni would only vaguely sketch out his ideas, before trusting his assistants to make the ideas wearable.

In July 1997, to the shock of the world, Gianni was found shot dead in front of his mansion in Miami, Florida. His killer was allegedly a serial killer who later took his own life.

Control of Gianni’s empire passed to his brother Santo, and his sister Donatella became the new head of design. However, it was Donatella’s 11-year-old daughter, Allegra, who was the soul heiress of Gianni’s fortune.

In terms of his personal life, Gianni met Antonio D'Amico, a model, in 1982. The couple embarked on a long-term relationship that lasted until Versace's untimely death. During that time, Antonio worked as designer for the Versace sports line.

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