Dreams Come True on the Red Carpet

The beginning of the fashion show season and the beginning of a new school year are usually the signs that summer is really over. I don’t like writing about fashion per se much, because I always try to to see it through a cultural lens, but I’ve got my exceptions: Marchesa, Givenchy Haute Couture and Atelier Versace. In a few days I’ll write a review of Marchesa spring/summer 2012 collection, but in the meantime let me spend some words about the Atelier Versace fall/winter 2011. I’ve never been a fan of unconditional love when it comes to fashion, because I think I’ve got quite a critical eye, but for me – a die-hard fan of Versace history and visuals – it’s really hard to demolish an Atelier Versace collection. This doesn’t mean I can’t realize that something doesn’t work, but I tend to be forgiving. This time, a very little indulgence was needed, because the collection is actually brilliant, with four clear themes (and you know how much I love themes in collections) and many details to be excited about. Yes, there’s a “black sheep” dress, but it’s easily forgotten.

The first theme I’ve found in the collection is (perforated) leather, a material that Donatella has already used for evening gowns.

This dress is like a sculpture and beautifully matches an architectural quality with a naïve touch (the bandeau top with bow on the back). The baroque designs of the crinoline high-waist skirt are cut in the leather and emphasized with little gold rings which give an overall transparency effect. The dramatic beehive hairdo of Kasia Struss and her make-up (surely a nod to the late Amy Winehouse and to Brigitte Bardot) underline the combination of structured and innocently sexy.

The same combination can be found in this ensemble, with an incredibly decorated high-waisted panier-shaped skirt and a bustier. The crinoline skirt is completely embroidered in white macro-sequins and three-dimensional mirrors, while the brassiere is made of white tulle and leather. The skirt is a tailoring masterpiece: the application of sequins and mirrors is so peculiar, it resembles a piece of papercutting art.

This is one of my favourite pieces of the collection – so romantic and dramatic! It’s an evening dress with asymmetrical crinoline skirt in nude metallic leather. The arabesque patterns are cut in leather and highlighted by little gold metallic rings. The skirt is worn with by a leather brassiere in a matching shade, tied up in the back. These first three outfits are made of separables – skirt and brassiere/bustier – which I think it’s an unusual and sensual concept.

I was so looking forward to seeing this dress on the red carpet and Selena Gomez was the lucky celebrity who wore it at an important event. She attended the 69th Venice Film Festival to present Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine on September 5th, 2012: she paired the magnificent dress with a crystal-studded Judith Leiber oval clutch, Lorraine Schwartz diamond jewellery and Sergio Rossi Song platform sandals. Her natural-looking make-up and side-swept hair completed the look.

This sky blue one-shoulder evening dress, made of leather and chiffon, is a classic Versace design, with fitted bodice and flowy skirt. The arabesque design cut in leather is emphasized by little gold rings adorning the bustier.

This long sheath dress is embroidered with leather silver petals, silk net and metallic little rings. Its shape is quintessential Versace – see the thigh-high slit and the halter neckline – but the tridimensional effects of the flower on the shoulder and on the leaf applications give it a modern vibe.

Jennifer Lopez, who is a die-hard Versace fan, wore this dress when she attended the 21st Annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards in New York on November 7, 2011. She looked absolutely stunning with this dress, which she paired to Jimmy Choo Sugar peep-toe pumps.

Echoes from the Eighties can be found in this long draped evening dress, characterized by long sleeves and made of perforated black leather, embroidered with matching crystals. The sheer panels on the bodice and the sleeves are made of black mousseline.

Now it’s time to step into another theme – Japan – which has always been a huge source of inspiration for many designers, but, as far as I remember, has never clearly inspired a Versace collection before. It’s interesting to see how the powerfully feminine taste of Donatella has interpreted the main Japanese decorative elements.

The concept of lingerie has already been introduced in the collection (think of the brassieres and bustiers we’ve just analyzed), but the presence of a corset effect on a fox coat is still surprising. The colour contrast between the turquoise fox coat and the embroidery with corals and cherry blossoms is impressive.

This is another of my favourite pieces. It’s a mini dress in nude silk tulle, entirely embroidered with cherry blossom-shaped sequins, silk threads and crystals on sky blue background made of neoprene sequins. I like it so much because it’s exquisitely decorated and features a sublime colour combination (sky blue, yellow, pink and green). In this case, the embroidery is a nod to Japanese culture, but the style reminds me of traditional Chinese cheongsam dresses.

I’m sure most of you noticed this dress on Katy Perry: the singer wore it at the MTV Video Music Awards on August 28th, 2011. She completed the outfit with Jimmy Choo Beak sandals, Lorraine Schwartz diamond jewellery and a cute baby blue parasol to emphasize the Asian mood. She was really pretty: that Dame Edna lavender-pink hair was the icing on the cake.

This long-sleeved nude evening dress is made of stretch chiffon with a circular design Oriental print and embroidered gold flowers. It has an amazing draping on the skirt and wide cut-outs on the back.

Kate Beckinsale wore this gorgeous dress when she attended the Vanity Fair Oscar party on February 26th, 2012. She paired it to diamond jewellery and a metal-framed clutch. I love this outfit on her, and I’m glad she didn’t style her hair in an updo: this half-updo is just perfect.

The third theme I’ve found in the collection is related to the amazing history of the Italian maison: Donatella has clearly paid homage to the priceless work of her brother Gianni and to his revolutionary genius approach to fashion. Thanks to my eidetic memory, I’ve found some similarities between the following dresses (or details of them) and pieces from past collections of the Eighties and Nineties.

Though impressed by the Lagoon print on this long draped evening dress, what has really caught my attention is the jewelled brassiere with chain straps, entirely embroidered in crystals. The sea vibe and the same concept of jewelled brassiere can be found in an famous dress – printed with starfish and shells and with shell-shaped bra – from the spring/summer 1992 collection, worn by Yasmeen Ghauri in the campaign by Richard Avedon.

In my mind, Versace is synonim of chainmail dresses, fragile and precious pieces which have always had a great appeal on me. Chainmail has characterized many phases of its history – it made its appearance in the early Eighties (see the top worn by Beverly Johnson in this picture by Richard Avedon from the fall/winter 1982 campaign) and could be found in many other occasions in the same decade (the dresses on Iman and Jerry Hall in the spring/summer 1983 campaign by Avedon; those worn by Kelly Le Brock and Andie MacDowell in the spring/summer 1984 campaign and those seen on Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington in the fall/winter 1987 campaign). Chainmail dresses made their comeback in the Nineties, in the famous fall/winter 1994 collection. The dress above gives an Old Hollywood vibe to a material which has often been considered futuristic when used as fabric: it’s a bustier dress made entirely of knitted pink gold metal mesh stripes forming trompe-l’oeil drapes and pleats.

Jane Fonda has never been on my fashion radar, so her appearance in Atelier Versace on the red carpet of the 65th Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2012, totally surprised me. The chain mail dress she wore had slightly modifications on the yoke and sleeves, but she looked amazing. This woman is 74 years old and almost looks younger than me! She completed the look with a clutch, gold pendant earrings by Chopard and silver peep-toe pumps.

Chainmail has also been used for this tunic mini dress with one strap, embellished by multicolour crystal beads forming the letters “I love Versace”. In this case, the first reference that comes to my mind is the fall/winter 1989 collection (the beautiful campaign, starring Talisa Soto and Gail Elliott, was shot by Bruce Weber), which included a lovely fringed dresses and shawls with music-inspired embroidered words.

I nearly fell off my chair when I saw this ballgown, combining a gold chainmail and crystal top and a radzimir skirt in indigo, gold and acid green Dragon Baroque print on vermilion background. It brings back all my Versace memories from the Eighties and Nineties (in those years, I collected Versace advertisement campaigns): scarf prints became huge in 1990-1992, culminating in the fall/winter 1992 collection.

The same Dragon Baroque print can be found in this lovely mini dress in stretch chiffon and neoprene. I love the shape of the skirt and the combination of scarf print and mousseline on the sleeves (the same technique – sheer fabric that covers the outer part of the arm – has been used in the black dress with crystals above).

An additional theme can be found in two of the following dresses – tropical imagery.

This long evening long-sleeved dress is made of violet crepe marocain and turquoise stretch georgette, two colours that are gorgeous together. The movements of the dress are carried by a large belt with a tropical pattern, entirely embroidered in crystals for a bejewelled effect. I love the wide cut-outs on the back, a very sexy touch. Though beautiful, I’m not excited by this dress, which is quite bland if compared to the complexity of the models above.

And here comes the “black sheep” dress of the collection. I can honestly say I hate it, because of that hideous tropical decoration on the bodice.

This Paréo evening dress is composed of a short black silk satin bodysuit open in the back, printed and embroidered in tropical design, under a black draped silk satin skirt. The composition (short bodysuit and draped skirt) is very interesting, but the tropical design is hyperrealist and tacky. Don’t ask me why, but it reminds me of pop prints on t-shirts from Blumarine spring/summer 1995 collection. In any case, it’s totally out of place.

The last piece – we can call it “dissident”, because it’s not part of any of our categories – is a fuchsia chiffon dress with asymmetrical skirt, embroidered on the bodice with sequins of the same colour. It’s a much needed bright dress in a collection dominated by neutral tones.

What are your opinions on this collection? I find it extremely complex and interesting, definitely better (as for consistency and originality) than the latest collections. It is as if Donatella had finally found a good balance in her style, a compromise between the past (something which can’t be forgotten, in her case) and the present/modern. The homage to her brother’s creations is not didactic, but shows self-confidence and a personal vision.

The much-awaited award season is starting in a few months, so I cannot wait to see the celebrities who will walk the red carpet wearing one of these beauties. I’ll update the post whenever I spot one!




  1. I love the perforated leather ones. But my favourite is the *papercut* skirt, absolutely gorgeous. Reminds me a bit of Deepa Panchamia work.

    PS: i hope you don’t really have eidetic memory, as it is a medical condition. prodigious memory, yes, you surely have it! 🙂

    1. I love all the collection, but the first outfit is my favourite. Awww, that bow on the back is adorable and the shape of the skirt is so peculiar. I really appreciate the amazing work behind the “papercut” skirt, impressive!

      Yes, I know eidetic memory is a medical term, but I only wanted to use it as a synonym for photographic memory 😉

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