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J.Lo Helps Put Donatella—and Herself—on the Fashion Map in That Green Dress

Jennifer Lopez wasn’t a nominee at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on this day in 2000. But she assured her domination of the next day’s fashion coverage when she walked the red carpet in a barely there, green, palm frond–print dress. The budding singer was already bound to make headlines as the arm candy of Sean Combs (who was then going by “Puff Daddy” and involved in a highly publicized legal drama). But a sheer silk chiffon dress, a pair of bejeweled panties and a neckline that plunged well below her navel, ensured that everyone was talking about J. Lo, and not the guy she arrived with. All it took was Donatella Versace’s brash design, a little toupee tape and a heck of a lot of self-confidence.

Versace designed the dress (and some have argued whether the mere wisps of fabric can be called a dress) while she was still struggling to find her groove as head of her brother Gianni’s fashion house after his death three years earlier. “[The dress] was an unexpected success,” Versace told the Canadian Press in 2008. “The next day [Lopez] was all over the place with people talking about her in that dress. It was one of those moments like Gianni had with Elizabeth Hurley and the safety-pin dress.” Versace credits the media attention as a turning point in her career and threw herself into designing for the “new Versace woman.” “[The Versace woman] is confident, for sure. Determined,” the designer noted, which may be an understatement when it comes to the cojones it took to wear what is now called “the Jungle Dress.” Read More »

Donatella Steps From Behind Her Brother’s Shadow

On July 18, 1998, Donatella Versace debuted as the new creative spirit behind the Versace brand with a sexy couture show featuring a glowing glass runway under the prized signature stomp of the world’s top supermodels. Donatella’s first foray into couture was highly speculated. The show came just a year and three days after her older brother Gianni’s murder and she had only designed ready-to-wear, bridge and menswear collections—not couture—for both Gianni Versace and its Versus label over the past 12 months. In honor of Gianni, Donatella built her runway over the pool of the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, just as her brother had done in past seasons, but added her own touch by constructing the catwalk in pure glass. As the lights dimmed, a tangled network of neon tubes glowed momentarily beneath the transparent runway. The lights came up, and Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss led a who’s-who of the era’s supermodels, including Linda Evangelista, Carolyn Murphy and Amber Valletta, down the catwalk. Donatella told Women’s Wear Daily that she hadn’t Read More »

Before the Glitter, Gianni Versace Made Milan Gleam with Gold

Gianni Versace died a shocking and senseless death on July 15, 1997, when crazypants murderer Andrew Cunanan shot him outside of his Miami Beach home. At the time he was at the height of his career, his fashion house had reached the status of “empire” and his devotees included the likes of Princess Diana, Elton John and Madonna. Versace had even succeeded in crossing the line from fame to infamy with an excessively flamboyant lifestyle and sometimes shockingly trashy collections that earned the label of “hooker’s haute couture.” But rewind 20 years, before his über-filthy 1992 bondage collection, before he defined Miami Beach gaudiness and redefined the modern fashion show into celebrity-studded spectacles, we find a sweet Italian mama’s boy who—very tastefully—helped put Milan on the fashion map.

Having learned everything he could from his mother, a seamstress in the southern town of Reggio Calabria, Versace moved to Milan at 26 to join the city’s growing Read More »

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