Gianni Versace

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Gianni Versace
Versace in an interview with Mario Biondi, 1990
Giovanni Versace

(1946-12-02)2 December 1946
Died15 July 1997(1997-07-15) (aged 50)
Cause of deathMurder (gunshot wounds)
Resting placenear Cernobbio, Italy
OccupationLuxury fashion designer
PartnerAntonio D'Amico (1982–1997)

Giovanni Maria "Gianni" Versace (Italian: [dʒoˈvanni maˈriːa verˈsaːtʃe];[a] 2 December 1946 – 15 July 1997) was an Italian fashion designer, socialite and businessman. He was the founder of Versace, an international luxury-fashion house that produces accessories, fragrances, make-up, home furnishings and clothes. He also designed costumes for theatre and films. As a friend of Eric Clapton, Princess Diana, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Madonna, Elton John, Tupac Shakur and many other celebrities, he was one of the first designers to link fashion to the music world.[4] He and his partner Antonio D'Amico were regulars on the international party scene.[5] The place where he was born and raised, Reggio di Calabria, greatly influenced his career.

On 15 July 1997, he was murdered outside his Miami Beach mansion, Casa Casuarina, by spree killer Andrew Cunanan.[6][7][8]

Early life[edit]

Giovanni Maria Versace was born in the city of Reggio Calabria on 2 December 1946 and grew up with his elder brother Santo Versace and younger sister Donatella Versace, along with their father and dressmaker mother, Francesca.[9] An older sister, Tina, died at age 12 because of an improperly treated tetanus infection.[10]

Versace was strongly influenced by ancient Greek history, which dominates the historical landscape of his birthplace. He attended Liceo Classico Tommaso Campanella, where he studied Latin and ancient Greek, without completing the course. He was also influenced by Andy Warhol.[11]

Versace began his apprenticeship at a young age at his mother's sewing business, which employed up to a dozen seamstresses.[9] He became interested in architecture before moving to Milan at the age of 26 to work in fashion design.

In 1973, he became the designer of "Byblos", a successful Genny's youthful line, and in 1977, he designed Complice, another, more experimental, line for Genny.[12] A few years later, encouraged by his success, Versace presented his first signature collection for women at the Palazzo Della Permanente Art Museum of Milan.[13] His first fashion show followed in September of the same year. His first boutique was opened in Milan's Via della Spiga in 1978.[14]

Fashion empire[edit]

After opening his Milan boutique in 1978, Versace quickly became a sensation on the international fashion scene. His designs employed vivid colors, bold prints and sexy cuts, which were a refreshing contrast to the prevailing taste for muted colors and simplicity. His aesthetic, which "combined luxurious classicism with overt sexuality", attracted much criticism in addition to praise.[15] He is quoted as saying, "I don't believe in good taste", which was reflected in his "brazen defiance of the rules of fashion".[15] A saying referencing Versace's rivalry with Giorgio Armani was: "Armani dresses the wife, Versace dresses the mistress."[16]

From 1978, Versace built the company with the support of his family, employing his sister Donatella as vice president and his brother Santo as president of the company.[17] Donatella's purview extended to creative oversight, where she acted as a key consultant to Versace. Gianni would also come to employ Donatella's husband, Paul Beck, as menswear director.[18]

Among Versace's most famous innovations was his 1982 invention of a type of super-light chainmail called 'Oroton', which became a signature material in his outfits. His suits were inspired more by his experience in female tailoring, departing from masculine Savile Row models by crafting suits that accentuated the male form and "insisted on men as sex objects."[19]

Versace was very proud of his southern Italian heritage and infused his designs with motifs inspired by historical fashion and art movements, especially Graeco-Roman art.[18] This is evident in the company's logo, the Medusa Head, and recurring motifs like the Greek key. He also allowed his love for contemporary art to inspire his work, creating graphic prints based on the art of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.[15]

In 1982, Versace expanded the business into jewelry and housewares, designing luxury furnishings, china and textiles for the home. He was unusual in retaining complete creative control over all aspects of his company.[20] In 1984 and '85, he contributed a specially appointed Gianni Versace Edition to the Mark VII line of US luxury automaker Lincoln.[21][22] In 1989, the firm expanded into haute couture with the launch of Atelier Versace. Versace became known for employing celebrities in his marketing campaigns and seating them in the front rows of his fashion shows, the first to do so. He is also credited with inventing the supermodel vogue of the 1990s, by discovering and featuring major supermodels like Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista, all of whom he featured both on the runway and in advertisement campaigns.[16]

Inside of Versace store featuring multiple designer handbags

At the time of his death, Versace's empire was valued at $807 million and included 130 boutiques across the world.[18]

Stage designs[edit]

Throughout his career, Versace was a prolific costume designer for stage productions and performing artists.[23] He stated, "for me the theatre is liberation", and his designs were well served by his penchant for bold colors, drapery, embellishment, and an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion history.[15] He was a collaborator at the La Scala Theatre Ballet in Milan and designed the costumes for the Strauss ballet Josephslegende in 1982 and Donizetti's Don Pasquale.[15] He also designed the costumes for five Béjart Ballet productions: Dionysos (1984), Leda and the Swan (1987), Malraux ou la Métamorphoses des Dieux (1986), Chaka Zulu (1989) and the Ballet du XXme Siècle.[15][23] In 1990, he designed the costumes for the San Francisco Opera's production of Capriccio.[24] Versace designed Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney on their 1983 "Say Say Say" video and Elton John's costumes for his The One Tour.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Versace met his partner Antonio D'Amico, a model, in 1982. Their relationship lasted until Versace's murder. During this time, Versace was diagnosed with ear cancer.[25][26]

Versace was known for adoration towards his nieces and nephews: Santo's two children, Francesca and Antonio, and Donatella's two children, Allegra and Daniel.[25]


On the morning of 15 July 1997, Versace took a walk on Ocean Drive to retrieve his morning magazines. Usually, Versace would have an assistant walk from his home to the nearby News Cafe to get his magazines, but on this occasion, he decided to go himself. Versace had returned and was climbing the steps of his Miami Beach mansion when a man dressed in a gray T-shirt, black shorts, a white hat, and carrying a backpack shot him in the head at point-blank range with a .40 caliber Taurus PT100.[27] He was pronounced dead at Jackson Memorial Hospital, at 9:21 a.m. He was 50 years old at the time of his death. Versace's murder was witnessed by his former UK senior stylist, Dean Aslett, who was on vacation in South Beach, Miami, and had partied with Versace a few days prior.[28]

Versace was the last victim of Andrew Cunanan, a spree killer who had earlier murdered four other men (including real estate developer Lee Miglin). Cunanan died by suicide on a houseboat eight days after Versace's murder.[29][30]

Cunanan was obsessed with the designer and often bragged about his close "friendship" with Versace, although this was symptomatic of Cunanan's delusions of grandeur: he often falsely claimed to have met celebrities.[31] However, FBI agents firmly believe that Versace and Cunanan had previously met in San Francisco, although what their relationship entailed is still a mystery.[32] Maureen Orth published a 2008 article in Vanity Fair reporting that Cunanan and Versace had met briefly at a San Francisco nightclub in 1990 (according to several eyewitness claims) and that they could have interacted on further occasions because both were involved in sex-for-hire circles in Miami and San Francisco.[31][33] However, Versace's family has always steadfastly denied that the two ever met.[31] Police have said that they do not know why Versace was killed. "I don't know that we are ever going to know the answers", said Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Barreto.[34]

Versace's body was cremated and his ashes returned to the family's estate near Cernobbio and buried in the family vault at Moltrasio cemetery near Lake Como. Versace's funeral liturgy, held at Milan Cathedral, was attended by over 2,000 people, including Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Naomi Campbell, Elton John, and Diana, Princess of Wales, who was killed in a car accident less than a month later.[35][36]


In September 1997, the estate announced that Versace's brother, Santo, would serve as the new CEO of Gianni Versace S.p.A. while Versace's sister, Donatella, would become the new head of design.

In his will, Versace left 50% of his fashion empire to his niece, Allegra Versace. She and her younger brother, Daniel, inherited Versace's rare artwork collection. Allegra inherited her stake, worth approximately $500 million, when she turned 18 in 2004.[26][37]


Versace was involved in numerous film projects.[38]


  • Spice World (1997) – Scenes were deleted because of his death before the premiere
  • Catwalk (a 1996-released documentary filmed in 1993)
  • VH1 Fashion and Music Awards (1995, film)
  • Look (1994, television show)[38]

Costume designer, costume and wardrobe[edit]

Production designer[edit]

Awards and tributes[edit]

  • Versace was awarded the American Fashion Oscar on 1 February 1993 at the council's annual awards ceremony.[40][41]
  • President of the Italian Republic Francesco Cossiga conferred the decoration of Commendatore della Repubblica Italiana on him on 24 January 1986.
  • Elton John dedicated his 1997 album The Big Picture to Versace.
  • In July 2007, a specially written ballet was performed in La Scala, Milan to mark the 10th anniversary of the fashion designer's death. Thanks Gianni, With Love was put together by French choreographer Maurice Béjart, for whom Versace designed many stage costumes.
  • In 2009 the Russian Versace fan club was founded. There are 1,500 members (July 2012). The fan club is known for its lectures, excursions and actions dedicated to Gianni Versace. The staff of the club is situated in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • He received the America Award in memory from the Italy–USA Foundation in 2017.[42]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The second season of the American drama series American Crime Story is subtitled The Assassination of Gianni Versace and revolves around the lead-up to and aftermath of Versace's assassination. Versace is played by Venezuelan actor Édgar Ramírez.[43]
  • In an episode of the Irish sitcom Father Ted, one of the main characters, Dougal, refers to Versace's death by saying, "God, Ted, do you remember that fella who was so good at fashion they had to shoot him?"
  • Eminem makes references to Versace's murder and his homosexuality in the song "Criminal" (the closing song on his 2000 album The Marshall Mathers LP) through the lyrics "Hey, it's me, Versace! Whoops, somebody shot me! And I was just checkin' the mail. Get it? Checkin' the male?"


  1. ^ According to a January 2018 Vogue interview with Donatella Versace, Versace is correctly pronounced /vərˈsɑː/ vər-SAH-chay in English, closer to the native Italian pronunciation, as opposed to the popular pronunciation of /vərˈsɑːi/ vər-SAH-chee.[1][2][3]
  2. ^ It has said /vərˈss/ vər-SAYS in the movie instead of the correct pronunciation.[39]


  1. ^ Vogue (31 January 2018), 73 Questions With Donatella Versace | Vogue, retrieved 2 March 2018
  2. ^ "You've probably been pronouncing 'Versace' wrong, according to Donatella". Harper's Bazaar. 2 February 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  3. ^ Bruno Mars (13 August 2017), Bruno Mars – Versace On The Floor [Official Video], retrieved 2 March 2018
  4. ^ Horyn, Cathy (6 October 2013). "Why Fashion Films Are Usually Cartoons". The New York Times. p. 13. Archived from the original on 23 November 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  5. ^ Mulvagh, Jane (15 July 1997). "Obituary: Gianni Versace". The Independent.
  6. ^ Gibson, Dirk C. (2006). Serial Murder and Media Circuses. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-2759-9064-0.
  7. ^ "This Day in History: July 15: Gianni Versace Killed". Maxim. July 2009. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012.
  8. ^ Smith, Tyler Stoddard (2012). Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World's Oldest Profession. Adams Media. p. 172. ISBN 978-1-4405-3605-2.
  9. ^ a b Ball, Deborah (2010). House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival. Crown. pp. 27, 31–32. ISBN 978-0-307-46240-4.
  10. ^ The New Yorker. F-R Publishing Corporation. 15 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ "How Warhol's Work Influenced Our Wardrobes". BBC News. 27 April 2015.
  12. ^ Gross, Michael (11 March 1991). "A portrait of Jenny". New York Magazine. pp. 18–19. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  13. ^ Deeny, Godfrey (18 February 2017). "Remembering Gianni Versace: 20 years after the designer's death, we celebrate his enduring legacy". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 11 January 2022. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  14. ^ Roberts, Paul G. (2015). Masters of Fashion Vol 35 Heels Part 1. Fashion Industry Broadcast. ISBN 9781625906670.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g "Gianni Versace". V&A Museum. 17 October 2003. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  16. ^ a b Bilyaeu, Nancy (15 January 2018). "The True Story of Gianni Versace's Murder". Town & Country Magazine. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  17. ^ Kautz, Justin. "Donatella Versace". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  18. ^ a b c Spindler, Amy M. (16 July 1997). "Obituary: Gianni Versace, 50, the Designer Who Infused Fashion With Life and Art". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  19. ^ "Gianni Versace". V&A Museum. 17 October 2003. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  20. ^ Davis, Daniel (2011). Versace. p. 29.
  21. ^ Lincoln Division, Ford Motor Company (1 August 1983). 1984 Continental Mark VII, Continental, Lincoln Town Car. USA. p. 15. Retrieved 12 June 2022.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  22. ^ Lincoln Division, Ford Motor Company (1 August 1984). 1985 Continental Mark VII, Continental, Lincoln Town Car. USA. p. 13. Retrieved 12 June 2022.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  23. ^ a b "Gianni Versace". American Ballet Theatre. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  24. ^ Fashion Staff (19 October 1990). "Versace Has Designs on 'Capriccio'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  25. ^ a b Levy, Ariel (2006). "Summer for the Sun Queen". New York. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  26. ^ a b Cunningham, Jennifer (19 June 2004). "Is there a Versace in the house?; Allegra Beck; Aged 11, she watched TV reports flash up news that her beloved uncle, Gianni Versace, had been shot. Now she stands to inherit a 50% share of the Versace empire. But who is this girl with the power at her fingertips?". The Herald. Plymouth, England. Archived from the original on 25 February 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  27. ^ Lecayo, Richard (21 June 2001). "Tagged for Murder". Time. New York City. Archived from the original on 3 October 2010. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  28. ^ Janofsky, Michael (25 July 1997). "Suspect's Suicide Brings Relief and Normality (Published 1997)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  29. ^ "FBI – Serial Killers, Part 6: Andrew Cunanan murders a fashion icon". FBI. Archived from the original on 2 July 2016.
  30. ^ Michael H. Stone & Gary Brucato. The New Evil: Understanding the Emergence of Modern Violent Crime (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2019), pp. 99–104.
  31. ^ a b c Orth, Maureen (5 August 2008). "The Killer's Trail". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  32. ^ "Time magazine article". Time. 24 June 2001.
  33. ^ Miller, Julie (17 January 2018). "Versace: The truth about Gianni Versace and Andrew Cunanan's relationship". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  34. ^ "Cunanan: More questions than answers". CNN. 25 July 1997. Retrieved 29 June 2007.
  35. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The burial sites of more than 14,000 famous persons (3rd ed.). McFarland & Company, Inc. (Kindle Edition). Kindle Location 48735.
  36. ^ Hallemann, Caroline (22 January 2018). "Here's what Gianni Versace's funeral was really like". Town & Country Magazine. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  37. ^ Pisa, Nick (7 December 2010). "Versace murdered because of debts to Mafia". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 11 January 2022. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  38. ^ a b "Movies and TV: Gianni Versaci: Filmography". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2012. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
  39. ^ Fitzpatrick, Erin (16 July 2018). "You've Been Pronouncing Versace All Wrong". Who What Wear. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  40. ^ "Gianni Versace". Biography. July 2020. Retrieved 12 May 2023.
  41. ^ "Who Was Gianni Versace? Fashion Designer's Life and Death Chronicled in FX's 'American Crime Story'". Newsweek. 15 January 2018. Retrieved 12 May 2023.
  42. ^ "America Award 2017". 12 October 2017.
  43. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (20 March 2017). "Penelope Cruz to Star in 'Versace: American Crime Story'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 20 March 2017.

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