"Versace" book's front cover


FAMILY AFFAIR: Donatella Versace laid bare some of her biggest fears – and challenges – as she launched her book tour for “Versace” (Rizzoli) on Sunday night with a talk at the Victoria & Albert museum in London.

“I was petrified during this shoot,” she said of a photo session with Richard Avedon where he shot her strutting down the street in a short Versace jacket and black sunglasses.

“I’m a very shy person, so this is almost like it’s someone else, I didn’t want to show the real me,” said the designer, who was in conversation with journalist Tim Blanks.

Despite her shyness, Versace said she was keen to portray herself as empowered and in charge, recreating the image of the house around herself following her brother Gianni Versace’s death in 1997.

She pointed to a nude image of herself by Steven Meisel: “It’s something I’m proud of, I’m not ashamed of my body. I couldn’t be Gianni. After his death everyone was comparing me to him and they were sure I was going to (be) crushed, but I was determined not to (be). These images helped establish me as the boss.”

Today, Versace said she uses social media platforms such as Instagram to share glimpses of her life and recently made an “eye-opening” trip to Instagram’s campus in Silicon Valley.

“I love the speed of it, but perhaps there’s a lot of things that shouldn’t be (on Instagram), I should post a bit less of myself,” she admitted.

Versace has also been embracing the new faces of the social media era; “Gigi and Bella [Hadid] or Kendall [Jenner] they are Instagram models, they are more like celebrities and there’s nothing wrong with that,” said the designer, pointing to the house’s latest campaign starring Gigi Hadid. “However, our next campaign, which we worked on with Bruce Weber, makes a statement by using models who are not Instagram famous.”

Looking back at Versace campaigns through the years, the designer highlighted a 1997 one featuring Courtney Love – the first she shot following her brother’s death – as well as other ones featuring Madonna and Lady Gaga.

She said that what she admires most about all the women she chose to feature is their open attitude to change and ability to recreate themselves.

“Lady Gaga was obsessed with my look, I’m not sure why. But it’s great that she can go from the eccentric look with the meat dress to an elegant, glamorous woman.”

She also reminisced about the Nineties. Looking back at a campaign that featured herself, alongside Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, Versace said she just wanted to be part of the fun.

“That was the best time, never forget and never regret. We were all partners in crime, I was like their playmate,” Versace said.

Perhaps one of the most surprising campaigns she starred in, however, was the Givenchy fall 2015 one, which was unexpected only because it was promoting another design house – something she had never done before.

“Riccardo is family and I’m always open to talking to other designers. We shouldn’t be put against each other. I’ve worked with Christopher Kane, Anthony Vaccarello for Versus and I might have not have worked with Riccardo yet, but he has always been inspired by Versace,” she added.

Versace also talked about her views on couture and her vision for the future of Atelier Versace.

“A woman is much more powerful in a suit than in a gown these days. I still want to do couture but not necessarily put it on the Web sit or on the catwalk. I think it will become more exclusive, I will show it to a small group of people. I feel a lot more comfortable doing rtw.”

Following the talk at the Victoria & Albert museum, the designer will continue promoting her new book with a signing in the Versace space at Harrods on Monday at 1:00 p.m.

On Dec. 7, the book will be presented at The Times Center in New York, while the following day the designer will sign copies at the Versace flagship on Fifth Avenue. The last event is slated for Dec. 15 at Milan’s Piccolo Teatro.

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