With Sir Elton John, Dua Lipa, Pamela Anderson and Jeff Bezos in the seats; Naomi Campbell, Kendall Jenner and Gigi and Bella Hadid on the runway, Donatella Versace had her Hollywood moment, inclement weather forecast be damned.
Los Angeles has been historically wet this year, and the fashion house was able to pull the show together 24 hours sooner, on Thursday night instead of Friday, to prevent colliding with another atmospheric river.
The city view from the rooftop of the Pacific Design Center at magic hour, spanning the Hollywood Hills to the snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains to the downtown skyline, and the gorgeous parade of Versace power glamour at its best, made it worth it.
The Milan fashion house wanted to decamp pre-Oscars to Hollywood, the place that literally and figuratively has given it so much over the past 40-plus years in the way of inspiration, red-carpet moments and campaign faces.
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Beyond gathering 520 guests for a Versace-branded gold carpet, no fewer than 120 of them VIPs dressed by the house, the mission was to elevate.
“It’s almost couture,” Versace said of the collection in the backstage scrum Thursday afternoon.
The starting point, as it turns out, was couture, or rather Atelier Versace. The designer was looking at the toile of a nipped-at-waist printed cocktail dress from the latest collection and said, “We should do this for L.A.”
Cue the black padded hourglass jacket and pencil skirt Gigi Hadid opened the show in, setting the tone for the rigorously crafted collection.
(The show featured five actual Atelier Versace dresses on the runway, which the designer hopes might make yet another appearance on Sunday’s Oscars red carpet.)
Using archival research from the spring 1995 Versace collection (Naomi walked in that one, too), and images of that collection shot by Richard Avedon and Steven Meisel, the collection pushed strong tailoring, pure shapes and a lot of black — for men and women.
There were sexy dresses with conical folded busts, volume at the hips, fluted necklines and rounded shoulders, as well as chic strapless high belted baby dolls with front pleats that looked young and fresh. Black glitter winged eyeliner, opera gloves with rhinestone rings and cuffs on top, sheer black tights, classic pumps and top-handled bags added to the dressed-up, cinematic glamour.
In another nod to the ‘90s, the collection brought back the 1995 Medusa hardware — a version of which debuted in the 1995 Versace campaign featuring Madonna — on buttons and belts.
Although the brand has dabbled a lot in streetwear, it wasn’t on the runway here. Denim was pressed and tailored, and even when there was a parka, it was in embossed crocodile leather or a jacquard crocodile nylon.
The menswear was also inspired by the ‘90s, with loose trousers on elegantly tailored suits, swishy black skirts, body-consciousness tanks or crystal chandelier tops (Lil Nas X was already wearing one in the front row). There were also belting details on coats taken from Donatella’s menswear collection in 2000.
As the sun went down, there were pops of sunset colors, including on glossy pink and turquoise goddess gowns draped to perfection like only Versace can.
The finale of sculpted black duchesse silk folded bustier dresses, caped opera coats, black crystalline men’s tailoring, and a gown with sheer black tulle bustier and wool silk ball skirt was simply beautiful. And by the time the opera faded to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” the crowd was ready to party.