Gianni Versace (Italian: [ˈdʒovanni verˈsaːtʃe];[a] 2 December 1946 – 15 July 1997) was an Italian fashion designer and founder of Versace, an international fashion house that produces accessories, fragrances, make-up, home furnishings, and clothes. He also designed costumes for theatre and films. As a friend of Eric Clapton; Diana, Princess of Wales; Naomi Campbell; Duran Duran; Kate Moss; Madonna; Elton John; Cher; Sting; Tupac; The Notorious B.I.G.; and many other celebrities, he was one of the first designers to link fashion to the music world.[4] He and his partner Antonio D'Amico were regulars on the international party scene.[5] On 15 July 1997, Versace was shot and killed outside his Miami Beach mansion Casa Casuarina at the age of 50.[6][7][8]

Gianni Versace
Gianni Versace.jpg
Versace in 1982
Gianni Versace

(1946-12-02)2 December 1946
Died15 July 1997(1997-07-15) (aged 50)
Cause of deathGunshot wounds
Resting placeNear Cernobbio, Italy
OccupationFashion designer
Partner(s)Antonio D'Amico
RelativesSanto Versace (brother)
Donatella Versace (sister)
Allegra Versace (niece)

Early lifeEdit

Giovanni Maria Versace was born in the city of Reggio Calabria, Italy on 2 December 1946, and grew up with his elder brother Santo Versace and younger sister Donatella Versace, along with their father and dressmaker mother, Francesca.[9] An older sister, Tina, died at age 12 because of an improperly treated tetanus infection.[10]

Versace was strongly influenced by ancient Greek history, which dominates the historical landscape of his birthplace. He attended Liceo Classico Tommaso Campanella, where he studied Latin and ancient Greek, without completing the course. He was also influenced by Andy Warhol.[11]

Versace began his apprenticeship at a young age, at his mother's sewing business, which employed up to a dozen seamstresses.[9] He became interested in architecture before moving to Milan at the age of 26 to work in fashion design.

In 1973, he became the designer of "Byblos", a successful Genny's youthful line, and in 1977, he designed Complice, another, more experimental, line for Genny.[12] A few years later, encouraged by his success, Versace presented his first signature collection for women at the Palazzo della Permanente Art Museum of Milan.[13] His first fashion show followed in September of the same year. His first boutique was opened in Milan's Via della Spiga in 1978.[14]

Fashion empireEdit

After opening his Milan boutique in 1978, Versace quickly became a sensation on the international fashion scene. His designs employed vivid colors, bold prints, and sexy cuts, which were a refreshing contrast to the prevailing taste for muted colors and simplicity. His aesthetic "combined luxurious classicism with overt sexuality," attracted much criticism in addition to praise.[15] He is quoted as saying, "I don't believe in good taste," which was reflected in his "brazen defiance of the rules of fashion."[15] A saying referencing Versace's rivalry with Giorgio Armani was: "Armani dresses the wife, Versace dresses the mistress."[16]

From 1978, Versace built the company with the support of his family, employing his sister Donatella as Vice President and his brother Santo as President of the company.[17] Donatella's purview extended to creative oversight, where she acted as a key consultant to Versace. Gianni would also come to employ Donatella's husband, Paul Beck, as menswear director.[18]

Among Versace's most famous innovations was his 1982 invention of a type of super-light chainmail called 'Oroton', which became a signature material in his outfits. His suits were inspired more by his experience in female tailoring, departing from masculine Savile Row models by crafting suits which accentuated the male form and "insisted on men as sex objects."[19]

Versace was very proud of his southern Italian heritage and infused his designs with motifs inspired by historical fashion and art movements, especially Graeco-Roman art.[18] This is evident in the company's logo, the Medusa Head, and recurring motifs like the Greek key. He also allowed his love for contemporary art to inspire his work, creating graphic prints based on the art of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.[15]

In 1982, Versace expanded the business into jewelry and housewares, designing luxury furnishings, china, and textiles for the home. He was unusual in retaining complete creative control over all aspects of his company.[20] In 1989, the firm expanded into haute couture with the launch of Atelier Versace. Versace became known for employing celebrities in his marketing campaigns and seating them in the front rows of his fashion shows, the first to do so. He is also credited with inventing the supermodel vogue of the 1990s, by discovering and featuring major supermodels like Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista, all of whom he featured both on the runway and in his ad campaigns.[16]

Inside of Versace store featuring multiple designer handbags.

At the time of his death, Versace's empire was valued at $807 million and included 130 boutiques across the world.[18]

Stage designsEdit

Throughout his career, Versace was a prolific costume designer for stage productions and performing artists.[21] He claimed, "for me the theatre is liberation," and his designs were well served by his penchant for bold colors, drapery, embellishment, and an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion history.[15] He was a collaborator at the La Scala Theatre Ballet in Milan, and designed the costumes for the Strauss ballet Josephslegende in 1982 and Donizetti's Don Pasquale.[15] He also designed the costumes for five Béjart Ballet productions: Dionysos (1984), Leda and the Swan (1987), Malraux ou la Métamorphoses des Dieux (1986), Chaka Zulu (1989), and the Ballet du XXme Siècle.[15][21] In 1990, he designed the costumes for the San Francisco Opera's production of Capriccio.[22] Versace designed Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney on their 1983 "Say Say Say" video and Elton John's costumes for his 1992 world tour.[15]

Personal lifeEdit

Versace met his partner D’Amico, a model, in 1982. Their relationship lasted until Versace's murder. Before his death, Versace was diagnosed with cancer of the ear.[23][24] During that time, D'Amico worked as a designer for the company, having become head designer for Istante and Versus Sport. Versace's will left D'Amico with a lifelong pension of 50 million lire (25,822) per month, and the right to live in any of Versace's homes in Italy and the United States. However, due to the Versace family's interference he only obtained a fraction of these allowances.[citation needed] D'Amico now runs his own fashion company.

Versace was known for doting on his nieces and nephews: Santo's two children, Francesca and Antonio, and Donatella's two children, Allegra and Daniel.[23]

Death and legacyEdit

Versace was shot and killed on 15 July 1997, at the age of 50, on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion as he returned from a morning walk on Ocean Drive. He was subsequently pronounced dead at Jackson Memorial Hospital, at 9:21 a.m. Usually, Versace would have an assistant walk from his home to the coffee shop to get his morning papers, but on this occasion he decided to go in person.

Versace was murdered by spree killer Andrew Cunanan, who used the same gun to commit suicide on a houseboat eight days later. Cunanan was obsessed with the designer and often bragged about his close "friendship" with Versace, although this was symptomatic of Cunanan's delusions of grandeur: he often falsely claimed to have met celebrities.[25] However, FBI agents believe that Versace and Cunanan had previously met in San Francisco, although what their relationship entailed is still a mystery.[26] Maureen Orth published a 2008 article in Vanity Fair reporting that Cunanan and Versace had met briefly at a San Francisco nightclub in 1990 (according to several eyewitness claims) and may possibly have interacted on further occasions because both were involved in sex-for-hire circles in Miami and San Francisco.[25][27] However, Versace's family has always steadfastly denied that the two ever met.[25]

Versace was Cunanan's fifth and final victim. Police have said they do not know why Versace was killed. "I don't know that we are ever going to know the answers," said Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Barreto.[28]

Versace's body was cremated and his ashes returned to the family's estate near Cernobbio, Italy, and buried in the family vault at Moltrasio cemetery near Lake Como. Versace's funeral liturgy, held at Milan Cathedral, was attended by over 2,000 people, including Diana, Princess of Wales, who was killed in a car accident just over a month later.[29][30]

In September 1997, the media announced that Versace's brother, Santo, would serve as the new CEO of Gianni Versace S.p.A. while Versace's sister, Donatella, had become the new head of design.

In his will, Versace left 50% of his fashion empire to his niece, Allegra Versace. She and her younger brother, Daniel, inherited Versace's rare artwork collection. Allegra inherited her stake, worth approximately $500 million, when she turned 18 years old in 2004.[24][31]


Versace was involved in numerous onscreen projects.[32]


  • Spice World (1997) – Scenes were deleted because of his death before the premiere
  • Catwalk (a 1996-released documentary filmed in 1993)
  • VH1 Fashion and Music Awards (1995, film)
  • Look (1994, television show)[32]

Costume designer, costume and wardrobeEdit

Production designerEdit

Awards and tributesEdit

  • Versace was awarded the American Fashion Oscar on 1 February 1993.
  • President of the Italian Republic Francesco Cossiga conferred the decoration of Commendatore della Repubblica Italiana on him on 24 January 1986.
  • Elton John dedicated his 1997 album The Big Picture to Versace.
  • In July 2007, a specially written ballet was performed in La Scala, Milan to mark the 10th anniversary of the fashion designer's death. Thanks Gianni, With Love was put together by French choreographer Maurice Béjart, for whom Versace designed many stage costumes.
  • In 2009 the Russian Versace fan club was founded. There are 1,500 members (July 2012). The fan club is known for its lectures, excursions and actions dedicated to Gianni Versace. The staff of the club is situated in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • He received the America Award in memory from the Italy–USA Foundation in 2017.[33]

In popular cultureEdit

  • 2Pac in 1996 had a gold chain to go with a Medusa medallion designed by Versace for $45,000.[34]
  • The second season of the American drama series American Crime Story is subtitled The Assassination of Gianni Versace and revolves around the lead-up to and aftermath of Versace's assassination. Versace is played by Venezuelan actor Édgar Ramírez.[35]
  • In 2017, Villa Casuarina, the three-story mansion of Gianni Versace, was transformed into a luxurious boutique hotel with 10 suites.[36][37]
  • In 2019, architectural historian and author Scott Cardinal wrote & produced the feature-length documentary Seeing Beauty: Gianni Versace's Miami Beach Palazzo about the Casa Casuarina where Gianni Versace lived and died in the late 1990s.


  1. ^ According to a January 2018 Vogue interview with Donatella Versace, Versace is correctly pronounced /vərˈsɑː/ vər-SAH-chay in English as opposed to the popular pronunciation of /vərˈsɑːi/ vər-SAH-chee.[1][2][3]


  1. ^ Vogue (31 January 2018), 73 Questions With Donatella Versace | Vogue, retrieved 2 March 2018
  2. ^ "You've probably been pronouncing 'Versace' wrong, according to Donatella". Harper's BAZAAR. 2 February 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  3. ^ Bruno Mars (13 August 2017), Bruno Mars - Versace On The Floor [Official Video], retrieved 2 March 2018
  4. ^ Horyn, Cathy (6 October 2013), "Why Fashion Films Are Usually Cartoons", The New York Times , p. 13
  5. ^ Mulvagh, Jane (15 July 1997). "Obituary: Gianni Versace". The Independent.
  6. ^ Dirk Cameron Gibson, Serial Murder and Media Circuses, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. p. 138.
  7. ^ "This Day in History: July 15: Gianni Versace Killed". Maxim. July 2009. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012.
  8. ^ Tyler Stoddard Smith, Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World's Oldest Profession, p. 172
  9. ^ a b Ball, Deborah (2 February 2010). House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival. pp. 27, 31–32. ISBN 978-0-307-46240-4.
  10. ^ The New Yorker. F-R Publishing Corporation. 15 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ "How Warhol's Work Influenced Our Wardrobes". BBC News. 27 April 2015.
  12. ^ Gross, Michael (11 March 1991). "A portrait of Jenny". New York Magazine. pp. 18–19. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  13. ^ Deeny, Godfrey (18 February 2017). "Remembering Gianni Versace: 20 years after the designer's death, we celebrate his enduring legacy". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  14. ^ Roberts, Paul G. (3 November 2015). MASTERS OF FASHION Vol 35 Heels Part 1. Fashion Industry Broadcast. ISBN 9781625906670.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g "Gianni Versace". V&A Museum. 17 October 2003. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  16. ^ a b Bilyaeu, Nancy (15 January 2018). "The True Story of Gianni Versace's Murder". Town & Country Magazine. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  17. ^ Kautz, Justin. "Donatella Versace". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  18. ^ a b c Spindler, Amy M. (16 July 1997). "Obituary: Gianni Versace, 50, the Designer Who Infused Fashion With Life and Art". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  19. ^ "Gianni Versace". V&A Museum. 17 October 2003. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  20. ^ Davis, Daniel (2011). Versace. p. 29.
  21. ^ a b "Gianni Versace". American Ballet Theatre. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  22. ^ Fashion Staff (19 October 1990). "Versace Has Designs on 'Capriccio'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  23. ^ a b Levy, Ariel (2006). "Summer for the Sun Queen". New York. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  24. ^ a b Cunningham, Jennifer (19 June 2004). "Is there a Versace in the house?; Allegra Beck; Aged 11, she watched TV reports flash up news that her beloved uncle, Gianni Versace, had been shot. Now she stands to inherit a 50% share of the Versace empire. But who is this girl with the power at her fingertips?". The Herald. Plymouth, England. Archived from the original on 25 February 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  25. ^ a b c Orth, Maureen (5 August 2008). "The Killer's Trail". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  26. ^ "Time magazine article".
  27. ^ Miller, Julie (17 January 2018). "Versace: The truth about Gianni Versace and Andrew Cunanan's relationship". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  28. ^ "Cunanan: More questions than answers". CNN. 25 July 1997. Retrieved 29 June 2007.
  29. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The burial sites of more than 14,000 famous persons (3rd ed.). McFarland & Company, Inc. (Kindle Edition). Kindle Location 48735.
  30. ^ Hallemann, Caroline (22 January 2018). "Here's what Gianni Versace's funeral was really like". Town & Country Magazine. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  31. ^ Pisa, Nick (7 December 2010). "Versace murdered because of debts to Mafia". The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  32. ^ a b "Movies and TV: Gianni Versaci: Filmography". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
  33. ^ "America Award 2017". 12 October 2017.
  34. ^ "The Day". Google News Archive Search. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  35. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (20 March 2017). "Penelope Cruz to Star in 'Versace: American Crime Story'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  36. ^
  37. ^ "The Villa Casa Casuarina". Retrieved 11 April 2018.

External linksEdit