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Versace, 1997

Versace Haute Couture, AH 1997:  Gianni’s last collection

“In Miami’s pagan, over-the-top South Beach, particularly among the large gay contingent, Gianni Versace had been a tanned, adored idol. Now the emperor lay dead, gunned down almost Mob-style on the steps of his lavish Mediterranean villa, shot in the head and face in broad daylight. The prime suspect, dressed in nondescript shorts and a baseball cap, came in close for the kill and then coolly walked away along Ocean Drive. He knew very well that the act of murdering Versace, the Calabrian-born designer whose flamboyant clothes virtually defined “hot,” who tarted up the likes of Princess Diana and Elizabeth Hurley but whose gowns also made Madonna and Courtney Love more elegant, would instantly catapult him to where he had always fantasized being: at the center of worldwide attention.”

– THE KILLER’S TRAIL by MAUREEN ORTH, VANITY FAIR, SETEMPBER 1997


Versace, 1994

 

At a certain point Versace’s rococo ambitions would cede to the shifting mood of the ’90s, parlaying his outlandish style into something sleeker, cleaner, and just us titillating. Versace was always an ingenious cutter, even if the years of tromp l’oeil prints and gem embellishments obscured that, and so the shift would only open up another realm of discovery. Most notable is the finale of safety-pin dresses, one most famously worn by Elizabeth Hurley — nothing more scandalous, suggestive, and yet minimal than a dress barely pinned at the seams. Also noteworthy is the young Kate Moss opening the show; a total contradiction of the Amazonian Versace woman, literally pale in comparison to a Naomi Campbell or Veronica Web, she would represent a new ideal for the next decade and then some. The lack of irony and cynicism is remarkable, it’s totally optimistic and speaks as much to the era’s unique outlook in a transitional moment as it does to Gianni’s relentless search for classical romance and celebration of life. There is an undeniable confidence, both sexually and artistically, and an assured sense of joyousness. If it seems vaguely banal today, or even trite, it was only just as fresh and inspiring in 1994.

Versace, 1991

Peculiar clothes for a peculiar time: men’s fashion had just begun its rise to legitimacy, gaining ground alongside women’s wear as a cultural meter while the economy still pulled itself together. Versace’s participation would not be through classical, timeless clothes (he knew well enough to leave that to Giorgio) but instead championing the novelty of the outlandish and new — fashion with a capital F. Vivid colors and prints, visual humor, optical effects: taste pushed to its maximum limits, this would be the unabashed Calabrian’s way. It would be potent and simultaneously give fashion license to conventional machismo aspiration and homosexual self-discovery, to newfound appreciation for excess and a jaunty modernism, all packaged under the Medusa seal to be sold around the world. If the the leisure suits and paisley prints of the 1960’s were for peacocks, Versace was a bird of paradise. And a decade later all of it would be over.

Subtlety had entered the vernacular of cool and that left the Versace Man of the early ’90s disrupted and far behind, his wild bravado lost on more refined tastes and minimalist sophistication. And for the next decade after that he would remain dormant, stashed away in the halfway house for fashion taboos. It would be an intense struggle for the house, navigating its iconic history through a fashion mob that seemed to despise it. But things are always changing in fashion. And so we wonder why he has now reappeared, in almost full glory, not only at the house of his conception but elsewhere, places where the strangeness and perceived ridiculousness can begin to make some kind of sense, again.

Exuberance, 2011

Oliviero Toscani’s talents for Esprit simulated a Utopia within the brand’s own visual culture, suggesting a better world, a fresher one at least, for their customers to consider.

Spring 11 looks by Jil Sander, Missoni, Prada, and Matthew Ames

The Spring 2011 collections have revealed a similar outlook, not surprising that it was prevalent mostly in the Milan collections. Clear color, bold graphics and prints, an abstracted silhouette, and a heavy dose of humor are new ways to move on from the incorrectly labeled “minimalism” that has defined fashion in the past season. Of course the look is clean and pared down, but it finds enrichment with an entirely different vocabulary, an entirely modern one, actually.

Jean Louis Scherrer Haute Couture, 1991

Versace Haute Couture, 1991

Emanuel Ungaro Haute Couture, 1991

There’s been several takes on optimism and humor, Schiaparelli, Capucci, Kenzo Takada, Issey Miyake, Jean Charles de Castelbajac, Moschino, and Isaac Mizrahi have all given their celebratory spin on life, adding to an evolving discourse. But its most pertinent iteration is perhaps in the Haute Couture of the very early 90’s, just as the recession challenged its relevance and provoked it to come up with something to say, that despite its excess it still had a message worth taking note of. As much as fashion needs its palate cleansed it cannot deny the wonders that a cheerful perspective and certain amount of richness can grant, even if it is only laughing so that it won’t cry.



Versace, 1991

Gianni Versace was the scion for excess in the 90′s, his Latin-Mediterranean sensuality updating the past decade’s exuberance for a cyber punk- hyper visual world. In the face of minimalism, Gianni excelled at juggling a graphic mélangeof pattern and texture that felt current, seductive, humorous, and relevant. And right now, it’s a current in the air…

– originally posted on nueve musas