Versace is frequently name-dropped in music tracks and a red carpet favorite among celebrities, but it’s much more than a label or a company. It’s an international legacy that fused the music and fashion industries and spans across three siblings. But behind it, there also exists a tragedy. Founder Gianni Versace was murdered in 1997 and sister Donatella Versace took over as VP and designer. Donatella is continuing what Gianni started and has expanded the company’s range beyond just clothing. Versace has partnered with luxury car and residence brands and continues to be the publicly revered brand it was two decades ago.
Donatella Versace’s Net Worth as of 2018: $200 million
Let’s see how she became such a pivotal aspect of the Versace Group.
1955 – 1980
Donatella was born in Calabria, Italy and originally enrolled at Florence University to study languages but ultimately steered towards fashion. Her mother was a dressmaker which influenced both older brother Gianni and her. In Donatella’s early 20s, she began helping Gianni in his early fashion endeavors, working in PR and design.
1980 – 1997
By the 1980s, Gianni had already created the groundbreaking Versace brand and dedicated the perfume ‘Blonde’ to Donatella as well as the diffusion label ‘Versus’, of which she had complete creative control. She had become the “muse” of Gianni as the rising brand got its start. The company was gaining momentum as it ventured into the accessory and home industries and had celebrity clients like Elton John and the Princess of Wales.
In 1997, Gianni was murdered by Andrew Cunanan and the empire took a major hit. Donatella and elder brother Santo bickered over the inheritance of the Versace brand, with Donatella ultimately receiving 20 percent, Santo receiving 30, and Donatella’s daughter receiving a 50 percent stake.
In an interview with the Guardian, Donatella admitted that when she took over as creative director following Gianni’s death, she was lost and began battling a cocaine addiction. She commented, “I had been listening to everyone else, and then I realised, who was the person my brother listened to? Me. I worked with him every day. I was much more than a muse. It was a dialogue between us. We discussed everything.”
1997 – 2015
In the following years, Donatella recuperated and began expanding Versace’s ventures and outreach. Despite declining profits in the early 2000s, she launched a fragrance, Versace Woman, while more and more high-profile celebrities were choosing to wear Versace’s designs. Under Donatella’s watchful eye, the brand evolved into a lifestyle brand. International luxury hotels were built upon the brand, deemed Palazzo Versace hotels, in an intersection of luxury lifestyle and fashion.
By 2008, the diffusion line Versus wasn’t quite the same after Gianni’s murder and was soon revamped with the help of rising designer Christopher Kane. The result was Versus becoming a major brand to look out for at Fashion Week and the beginning of fundamental bonds between young designers and Versace.
In later years, Versace began ventures in luxury transportation brands with limited edition Lamborghini models and the AgustaWestland helicopter featuring Versace interiors.
2015 – Present
In last fall’s Milan Fashion Week, Donatella dedicated her Spring 2018 show to her late brother. The edgy details and bright patterns of the runway looks were all signature elements of the brand and towards the end, supermodel veterans including Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell, came out to celebrate Gianni.
The Versace brand has left an impact that transcends decades and generations. The family’s story is still being talked about today and is hitting screens. In January 2018, FX premiered The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story to give a look into the Versace family as well as the after-math of Gianni’s murder. Penelope Cruz is portraying Donatella while Edgar Ramirez was cast as Gianni.
If any brand can survive tragedy and strengthen despite it, it’s Versace. Various members of the family contribute to the company to retain its signature roots and currently, there are more than 1500 international boutiques and various luxury resorts and hotels operating under the brand. As for the legacy? That’s eternal.