The Story of Donatella Versace, Who Had to Pay a Huge Price for Her Success
When we look at Donatella Versace’s success in preserving the name of the Versace fashion empire and making it thrive all these years, we’d think that she’s always been invincible. Yet, this 67-year-old’s life is full of tragedy, fear, and insecurity that she learned to face and overcome with time. And even today, after all her achievements, this woman is living proof that success never comes easy and that every day is a new challenge that we have to conquer.
She was Gianni’s biggest muse
No one can argue that Versace is one of fashion’s biggest and most luxurious brands, but first and foremost this family’s story shows us the importance of family values.
The story of this fashion empire started with designer Gianni Versace, who grew up inspired by his mom, who was a dressmaker. In 1978, at 32 years old, Gianni established his own company with his brother Santo as CEO, and his sister Donatella as a designer and vice president.
The relationship between Gianni and Donatella, who is 8 years his junior, was always so special. She was his closest adviser, most trustworthy friend, and biggest muse. He was also the one who advised her to dye her hair platinum blonde, a look that became her forever iconic trademark. Gianni even once declared, “If I were to marry, I would look for a girl like Donatella.”
When tragedy struck
In September 1997, the most unthinkable tragedy struck when Gianni’s life horribly and suddenly ended. The designer was 50 years old. Needless to say that his little sister was beyond devastated. Looking back, she admitted, “My brother was the king, and my whole world had crashed around me.”
Following Gianni’s tragedy, it was declared that Donatella would assume creative control of Versace. The then 42-year-old felt extremely overwhelmed by this heavy responsibility, and her insecurities as a designer made her not feel ready to carry this burden. She herself admitted, “For the first 5 years, I was lost,” She noted, “I made a lot of mistakes.”
She had to conquer her demons
With fame and fortune in one hand and her self-critical nature in the other, Donatella gave in to a lot of temptations and distractions in order to deal with the pressures that came with her position. This eventually made her life spiral out of control.
However, a few years later, the designer realized that she had to believe in herself and her capabilities and take control of the future of the empire. Otherwise, her beloved brother’s legacy would be in serious danger.
Finding her own voice
And luckily, Donatella ended up finding her true voice and identity in the fashion world. Because at the start of her career, she admitted, “I tried to follow in his footsteps. But it was not exactly my style.”
Thinking back on her first challenging years, she’d advise herself to “Be strong, and stay true to yourself... But most of all, follow your own instincts, and don’t try to be Gianni.”
The 3 elements that set her creations apart from her brothers’ were the use of less bright colors, less revealing clothes, and less decoration. And needless to say that it took a lot of courage for Donatella to get rid of them.
In fact, being a woman who is designing for women made Donatella “understand exactly what women want to wear.”
With her, Versace became all about female empowerment. She declared, “We need more women CEOs. Women becoming top models, that’s not enough.”
And she tries to convey her vision through the clothes that she designs. She believes that women should feel comfortable in their clothes whether they are a size 38 or 46. And this means that, for her, fashion is all about the right fit.
Preserving the Versace legacy and thriving
And this approach seems to have been working perfectly for decades now. 25 years after becoming the creative director of Versace, this name is still one of the biggest luxury brands in the fashion industry. The brand continues to be a favorite on the red carpet and among celebrities — recently she designed Britney Spears’ wedding dress.
The beauty and the challenge of being a woman
Donatella acknowledges that staying at the top requires continuous work and endless devotion, especially when you’re a woman trying to progress in a man’s world.
The 67-year-old admits, ’’Everything is more difficult for a woman. We can’t compare a man’s experience in the workplace to what women have to go through.’’ She explains that women ’’are more likely to get scrutinized and criticized than men.’’
Donatella Versace, creative director, opens up saying, ’’My fashion’s fearless. I’m not. I’m very insecure.’’
Yet regardless of all her fears and the hurdles that she has to constantly face, Donatella Versace’s success story is the biggest proof that when we have the determination to succeed, nothing is impossible. And the more we have challenges on our path, the sweeter the taste of success becomes once we overcome them.
What do you think of Donatella Versace’s journey? Do you agree that women are still more criticized than men in their professional life?