If Mr. Lagerfeld and Mr. Cavalli have taught us anything, it’s that unfiltered honesty is the best, most hilarious, policy. And speaking of unfiltered designers, we haven’t heard from Donatella Versace since last November’s Versace x H&M media blitz. But with the house’s recent return to couture and the sudden interest sparked by potential IPO rumors, we’re starting to hear more from Ms. Versace again (which, yay!).
Tim Blanks moderated a lively interview with the designer yesterday at Oxford University Union, wherein she opened up about her design process, personal life, how she’d like to dress the Queen, and that time Elizabeth Taylor stole some jewels. We weren’t there but Vogue UK was. Read on for the highlights.
On why she avoided using classic Versace iconography in her collections following Gianni’s death in 1997:
“After my brother’s terrible death, all the iconography was like a sanctuary, so special, it felt untouchable… But you also have to remember that it was the end of the Nineties. For a while since then we all moved away from the bling we were famous for – it was too sexy, not in line with the general mood – but now, certainly in 2012, it’s back; people are having fun with fashion again, so I had to find the courage to look at the past in a new perspective.”
How public pressure to deliver for Versace influenced her personal style:
“I think my own look makes people think I’m tough but when they get to know me I’m very different. It’s like armour that was useful to me in the first years after Gianni’s death. It was difficult to live that pain in public – and to be compared to him when he was the genius and I was only ever the accessory. It was hard to hear people constantly say ‘will she make it?’ I don’t mean to sound like a martyr – just to make the point that I used my personal image to hide all these emotions.”
On Queen Elizabeth’s versatile style:
“I’d like to dress the Queen – she can handle anything. I’d put her in black – she never wears black – and add a little leather, maybe. A little rock ‘n’ roll.”
She wants her own reality show but thinks no one would watch (please, someone, make this happen!):
“I’m sure people don’t have time to watch anything about me but I’d love to do a show – something with my friend Rupert Everett, wouldn’t it be great!”
She looks up to (much newer designer) Christopher Kane, who was in the audience:
“The best fashion designer in England – I learn so much from him, I hope he learns a little from me.”
Elizabeth Taylor once stole her jewelry, but it was NBD.
“My brother collected vintage jewelry and I was wearing a ring that he’d given me – Elizabeth said in this extraordinary breathy voice: ‘Darling I love your ring, may I try it?’ And she didn’t give it back! She put it on and breathed, ‘oh darling thank you, you didn’t have to do that!’ But I hadn’t!”
She thinks investing in clothes is a bad idea:
“Some say the economy means that you have to persuade people to invest in clothes – to buy less things but more expensive things. I disagree – invest in jewelry, or a house, maybe, but not in fashion. Designers have to ensure that their brand stays in the real world – like we have, hopefully, with Versus – but then you have to work hard to make sure the creativity survives. In hard times you still have to be extreme. Fashion always has to be about changing and moving forward, to make people dream.”