Versace at the V&A

A loan exhibition from the late fashion designer's archive

Six years after Gianni Versace’s death, the V&A is celebrating his career as a fashion designer with a loan exhibition from the Versace archive in Milan (17 October-12 January). Versace, renowned as the designer who bought glamour back into fashion, was said to have taken inspiration from the women of his native southern Italy, who knew how to wear their colours bright and their heels high. He was a brilliant colourist, not afraid to mix patterns, textures and fabrics. A chiffon trouser suit worn by Naomi Campbell is spectacular, with a painterly, bright swirling pattern. He also knew how to use black superbly, especially with touches of gold, such as buttons, safety pins or embroidery. These skills produced some of the most celebrated clothes of our times, such as Liz Hurley’s career-launching safety pin dress and Princess Diana’s pale blue beaded dress worn after her dramatic make-over in New York (both items are in this show). Versace had a long association with the V&A; in 1985, when still only a young designer, he held a grand dinner there, where models in slinky black outfits sashayed past Raphael’s Cartoons. The museum followed his career from that point on. As well as celebrity outfits, there will be designs for opera and ballet, and “art dresses” inspired by the likes of Picasso, Warhol and Klimt. It is ironic that Versace gets the accolade of this exhibition just as his huge store on Bond St closes down.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 129 October 2002