Versace is the crème de la crème of luxury brands. The Italian label, founded by the late Gianni Versace in 1978, has produced some of the most memorable looks in fashion history. The label also became an iconic symbol of sexy exuberance in the mid ‘80s thanks to its colorful and animal-print infused runway shows that featured supermodels such as Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista. Sadly, however, the brand’s future came to a crucial turning point when Gianni was murdered by spree killer Andrew Cunanan in 1997. It was Gianni’s younger sister Donatella who didn’t allow Versace to falter. Soon after his death, she took over as creative director of the brand, and since then the House of Versace has experienced a revitalization.
Gina Gershon will portray the world-renowned fashion designer in Lifetime’s House of Versace, which premieres this Saturday, October 5th at 8/7c. But before you tune in, here are some facts that you should know about the blonde beast of fashion.
1. Family Business
Since the death of Gianni Versace, the label has remained a family business. Along with acting as creative director of the label, Donatella is the vice president of the Versace Group and owns 20 percent of the brand. Older brother Santo Versace owns 30 percent, while Donatella’s daughter, Allegra, inherited 50 percent of the entire company. In 1998 Donatella presented her first runway collection in Milan; attendees included the likes of Demi Moore, Boy George, and Anna Wintour. The spring line opened up with a projected handwritten line in neon that read: ‘This show is dedicated to our brother Gianni.’ Donatella received a standing ovation at the end of the show.
2. Life & Kids
In 1987 Donatella married Paul Beck, an American model. Beck first worked for Armani in the ‘80s and later met Gianni and Donatella and became a consultant for the brand. The pair had two children Allegra and Daniel. Although the two later divorced, Beck continued to work for Versace, and the two have an amicable relationship. “In the beginning, it was more difficult. But a while after you separate… you get over whatever makes you separated. I don’t think we could work in the same city together, though,” Donatella said about her ex.
3. The Dress
Although Donatella had made a successful transition as head of Versace after her brother’s death, there was one major fashion statement that solidified her as a designer. In 2000 at the 42nd Grammy Awards, Jennifer Lopez floored everyone by stepping out in a gorgeous “jungle” green, silk see-through chiffon dress. Lopez made the rounds on the red carpet, along with her boyfriend at the time Sean Combs, but the dress’ wow factor couldn’t be entirely seen. It wasn’t until she took the stage with actor David Duchovny to present an award that audiences really got a load of the low v-cut gown, which stretched down below the navel. Needless to say, it was the dress everyone couldn’t stop talking about. The Fashion Museum named it “Dress of the Year” in 2000, and it’s considered the fifth best red carpet stunner in fashion history.
4. The Look
It’s hard to pull off slick bleached hair, uber tight dresses, and a super tan all year long, but Donatella has been rocking it for decades—whether people like it or not. The 58 year old has been mocked for her appearance for ages, but she apparently doesn’t mind. In 2010 comedienne Maya Rudolph spoofed the fashion designer during her stint on Saturday Night Live, and Donatella responded with amusement. “I called Maya to give her some tips,” she told Joy Behar and added, “if you’re going to impersonate me, do it right.” When asked how she keeps young, she said in her thick accent: “Haven’t you heard? I sleep every night in the deep freezer!”
5. Versace Now
While the brand is close to selling a minority share of the company to Italian investors, the Versace family is still very much in control of the fashion label. Today Versace is as relevant as ever and even recently did a collaboration with H&M to create a collection for budget-conscious fashionistas.
And then there’s the Lady Gaga factor. She and Donatella have been seen together at various fashion events, but most recently the pop star incorporated her fashion counterpart in a song for her new album titled “Cake Like Lady Gaga.” In it she sings: I roll like Lady Gaga, Lady Gaga in this b*tch/ I roll all f*cking day, Donatella on your hoes/ Donatella got them clothes/ Donatella dat’s fo’sho. So what did Donatella think of this “love letter”? “I would like to thank Gaga for her geniality, creativity, incredible talent, and super bitchiness,” she said.
See a clip of Gina Gershon as Donatella in the ‘House of Versace’:
Lifetime’s House of Versace premieres this Saturday, October 5th at 8/7c.