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Remembering Gianni Versace’s Lasting Legacy on Fashion

Gianni Versace was an Italian genius whose brilliant creative intelligence captured the entire world. Twenty-six years have passed since an icon of the International fashion industry climbed the entrance stairs of his Villa Casa Casuarina on Miami’s Ocean Drive, where a stranger approached him and, in a few dramatic seconds, killed him by firing two gunshots. That man was soon identified by the FBI and recognized as a psychopath suffering from personality disorders. Andrew Cunanan, a 28-year-old addicted to heroin and cocaine, had escaped by taking refuge in an uninhabited houseboat, where shortly after he committed suicide. Other than those facts, Gianni Versace’s murder is still shrouded in mystery.

In 2022, Gianni’s older brother and business partner, Santo, wrote the autobiography Fratelli, Una Famiglia Italiana which is the story of the relationship between brothers as well as the true tale of the myth known as the Versace Maison.  Here Santo gives a tender and moving personal memory of Gianni. Santo was able to support Gianni throughout his life, translating his art into an International Holding that the two brothers and the youngest sister Donatella turned into a modern fantasy. Gianni was so in love with the United States that he made New York City his favorite retreat and Miami his fabled home. His Miami residence remains one of the oldest and most dazzling villas on Ocean Drive, a luxurious and chic mansion. He was a famous person but very fond of his privacy. His daily ritual included a visit to the News Cafè, a trendy cafè & newsstand where expats from all over the world stopped in daily to purchase a newspaper from their own countries and meet friends over coffee.

Gianni passed away at the height of his career. Born in Reggio Calabria, he moved to the fashion-capital Milan at a young age and in 1982 was awarded the Best Fashion Designer of the Year GoldenEye prize for that year’s autumn-winter women’s collection. This was just the beginning of a dazzling career, thanks also to collaborations with fashion photographer Richard Avedon and friendships with 1990s supermodels, who helped make his couture famous. Those were the years marked by the greatest names of Italian fashion: Valentino, Armani, Prada, Krizia, Moschino, Fendi, Gucci, Ferrè, and many others. Italy was expressing the best of its extraordinary ability in creating beauty, craftsmanship, and originality and Gianni Versace was at the top of the influencers’ pyramid in the fashion system.

His style was totally devoted to his love for women, which started with his affection for his seamstress mother, and to the expression of their sensually revealed and liberated femininity, which is now loved by women throughout the world. Wearing Versace means dressing freedom itself, being sexy without disturbing anyone, and being desirable with a touch of class and no inhibitions. Gianni, thanks to his creative flair and inner beauty, used to engage in famous celebrity friendships - from Lady Diana Spencer to Sting and his wife, Sir Elton John, Madonna, Freddy Mercury, John Travolta, and the film director Franco Zeffirelli. Versace had the gift of catalyzing around him special and unique people who changed the course of fashion, art, music, culture, and society.

In addition to women’s wear, Versace created theater costumes for choreographers and directors such as Maurice Béjart, William Forsythe, and Bob Wilson. They gave him full creative freedom to give shape to their dreams. He loved beauty and adored the neoclassical Napoleonic style, which was reflected in how he furnished all his most beautiful homes around the world: Milan, Lake Como, Rome, New York, and Miami, to name a few. He famously said: “It seems stupid to me to take a Picasso painting, copy it, and put it on a dress.” He preferred to be inspired by his creative genes and re-create an object of rare beauty. And when criticism stung him for having taken inspiration from other people’s ideas, he replied that art belongs to everyone and is made to be shared and improve everyone’s life.  A smart intelligence, a unique spiritual generosity.

At  Milan Fashion Week 2018, Donatella, beloved sister, and artistic heir, celebrated her brother Gianni by bringing the top supermodels of the 90s onto the catwalk: Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Helena Christensen. In July 2022, on the 25th anniversary of her brother’s death, she addressed him in a sweet message on her Instagram profile:  “25 years of missing you, Gianni. Every day, I wish you were still here.

Barbara Benzoni

 Barbara Benzoni was born in Milan and lives between Rome and Tuscany. She is devoted to USA, the land of courage and innovation. She’s Peter's super-lucky mum and Ale's wife. Cinema, art, good food and only beautiful things are the themes of her existence. With a degree in Italian literature and a Masters in Sports Management she can both enjoys books and basketball matches. In 25 years she has been organizing sport events all over the world and she’s been lucky enough to meet the greatest champs ever. Curiosity in everyday life and people are her drivers. Her personal icon is Mohammed Ali : "It's not bragging if you can back it up".