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At Donatella Versace's nostalgia marketing school

How does the creative director uses past to narrate the present between quotationism and celebrity culture

At Donatella Versace's nostalgia marketing school How does the creative director uses past to narrate the present between quotationism and celebrity culture

The impassive face of Medusa, the brand's iconic logo, should already give an indication of how the past is lifeblood for Versace's evolution. The truth is that the work of Donatella Versace, creative director of the Maison since 1997, has amplified this ambition, making the past a way to build the present. Donatella took her first steps in the company founded by her brother Gianni by taking care of public relations. Over the years she consolidated her role at Versace, becoming a true muse for her brother. Sensing Donatella's creative strength, in 1994 Gianni entrusted her with the stylistic direction of the indomitable Versus. Although Donatella's rise only became real when she was called to the artistic direction of the brand, following Gianni's assassination in Miami in 1997. Only a few years ago American Crime Story tried to tell the painful handover, where a haughty Penelope Cruz gave a not very real image of what Donatella represents today. Constantly living with the heavy legacy of her brother on her shoulders, Donatella has managed to transform a brand that everyone thought was dead into an avant-garde symbol of a past that knows how to speak to the present. To do so, she draws from the Versace imagination (and not only) iconic moments, which after decades have the same reputational success. 

The tribute to Gianni | The 90s - 2017

The first episode of media-relevant nostalgia marketing is the tribute to her brother Gianni, which Donatella wanted to pay him on the occasion of the SS18 fashion show. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of her brother's death, Donatella sent a tribute collection down the runway, with animalier, gold chains, Pop Art prints and Baroque shirts decorated with references to classical architecture. In that show Gianni's creative flair was at its peak, or so it was thought, until the designer's five statutory muses appeared on a pedestal at the end of the show, all dressed in gold and with the vertiginous slits typical of the nineties. It was Donatella, at the beginning of her brother's career, who wanted to show the attractive cover models for the first time. Today, in 2022, this symbiotic link between top model - celebrity and Versace continues: Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Carla Bruni have given way to Gigi Hadid, Jennifer Lopez and Dua Lipa.

The Jungle Dress | 2000 - 2019

When Jennifer Lopez appeared on the runway in a sheer silk chiffon calamitic dress at the end of the Versace spring-summer 2020 show in September 2019, few of the younger generation could have known that JLo herself, nineteen years earlier, had made that dress famous during Grammy night. If, in 2000, the perfect curvaceous fit of the dress on the singer's toned body had given birth to Google Images[1][2] (no joke), in 2019 the Jungle Dress's roar on the runway - and the confidence of the wearer - made one of Donatella's most iconic dresses designed viral even among members of Gen Z.


Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston vs. Dua Lipa and Megan Thee Stallion

1998 - 2022

A few weeks ago, on stage at the Grammy Awards, Dua Lipa and Megan Thee Stallion squared off from head to toe noting with disappointment that the clothes they were wearing - total black look with Versace Safety Pin closures - were identical. Donatella Versace herself intervened to redeem the quarrel between the two, removing a part of the dress of both of them, making the clothes worn unique. Even in this funny interlude, the blonde creative director wanted to pay homage to a similar gag, which occurred in 1998, when Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston found themselves in the same situation, but with a Vera Wang dress, at the MTV Video Music Awards.


Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed. The creative director is the trait d'union between past, present and future, the matriarch of the Versace family, as she sumptuously appears in the latest spring-summer 2022 campaign alongside the faces of the Hadid sisters. Donatella Versace has revealed to the world that the hype generated by her nostalgia marketing operations obey a single imperative: to know the past in order to know how to use it wisely in the present. 




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