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Versace joins digital age, embracing icons of social media

Donatella Versace is always pushing to find what she calls the “Versace of today”.

It has become something of a catchphrase when she explains her thinking behind a collection each season. Autumn/winter 2015, shown on the Friday evening of Milan fashion week, was no different. But, arguably, the method for getting there was.

If, recently, Versace has drawn on the heritage of the house and spun it in new ways, Donatella said this season she had “closed the door on the archive”.

In its place on the moodboard was the brave new world of the internet. This show was livestreamed and some evening dresses featured the at sign (@) and hashtags (#) rendered in sequins.

The shownotes introduced the concept of “#greek”, essentially the classic Versace key design reworked as “the emoji of the future”.

As radical as this sounds, the collection had, in the best possible way, all the familiar trademarks of Versace.

Glamour and sex appeal – the qualities this house has built on – werenot in short supply. Models with big hair and big heels walked out on to a runway bathed in red light.

The reworked key design was there across straps on dresses, knitwear, a jacquard, bags and even gloves on one look. The colour scheme – primary brights mixed with black, orange and green – was punchy. Some models wore asymmetrical thigh-high boots, with one coming higher up the leg than the other.

Evening dresses were short and sequinned – with the letters of the word Versace dotted across them, along with those social media friendly symbols – or longer and in jersey crepe.

A model for Versace at Milan’s fashion week.
Photograph: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

If the motifs on the sequinned numbers felt a little like overegging a theme, the jersey dresses were beautifully cut and instantly desirable. A simple black dress with a yellow panel on the shoulder and a cutout detail on the back a highpoint.

Skater skirts, bomber jackets and heels lower than 10cm (4in) added up to a look that was closer, in silhouette if not price tag, to what the digital native generation might wear.

A logo Versace sweatshirt and knee-length skirt were more casual, and there were thick woolly tights – possibly a first for Versace, a brand that loves to flash the flesh. Donatella described the collection as daywear and there were some concessions to the high glamour quotient.

But, with fur dominating outerwear and most dresses with revealing cutouts, this was hardly office appropriate attire. Versace world daywear is still a relatively new concept.

“We are finding a new language,” she said, “particularly online. It has to be simple and powerful.”

The digital theme for this collection may have come from the business side of the Versace machine. E-commerce is a major part of the current expansion plan for the Versace group – the website now operates in nine countries.

Versus, Versace’s younger brand, has gone further with this concept. The first Versus capsule collection by Anthony Vaccarello was available to buy instantly online after the show in September. Vaccarello was announced as permanent creative director of Versus in January.

A model for Versace at Milan’s fashion week.
Photograph: Flavio Lo Scalzo/EPA

A young designer of Italian descent rated for his sexy aesthetic with more than 83,000 Instagram followers, he is a perfect fit for Versace now. His first official collection will be watched with interest, no doubt on all digital channels.

Versace is expected to launch on the stock market by 2018. This has been masterminded by Gian Giacomo Ferraris, chief executive since 2009. Under his direction, net profit increased by almost a third in 2013 and there has been double-digit growth in China.

Ferraris also negotiated external investment for Versace. Blackstone Group took a 20% stake last February, when the brand was valued at about $1.4bn (£900m).

While figures for 2014 have yet to be announced, future plans include more stores in Japan, Australia and the US.

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