“An actual icon.”
This is how Michael Kors Holdings’ chairman and chief executive officer John Idol described Donatella Versace shortly after reaching a $2.1 billion deal to buy her family’s company, which she steered for two decades.
Idol emphasized her “incredible celebrity following,” as well as “her leadership in the fashion field” and said the designer is “even more relevant today than any other time in her history.”
Quite an introduction, and in an interview with WWD, it was clear that, while this might very well be, Versace is not one to dwell on what had been achieved as she looks ahead to the future. As she put it, she “can’t wait to restart” with this new adventure.
She couldn’t dwell when she suddenly and tragically found herself leading the company after her brother Gianni’s murder in 1997. She chose to continue to build the business in an increasingly competitive market and now that work has paid off.
Her attachment to the family company and its heritage have steered her decision-making over the years, leading her to this historic moment.
During a phone interview with WWD, the designer reiterated how happy she was, sounding energized and determined — and a few times breaking into a chuckle. A champion of girl power, Versace is writing a new chapter for her company, and for the publicly listed Kors.
Here, a conversation with the designer shortly after the deal was made public.
WWD: Why now and why with Michael Kors?
Donatella Versace: I must say I wasn’t even thinking about such a choice. I was happy with Jonathan Akeroyd [Versace’s ceo], we had a lot of success over the past year and he did a lot of wonderful things for the company. I’ve been approached by many people and most of them, I didn’t really care for. But I have known John Idol for years, I wanted to talk to him, and the connection was immediate. I realized he could help grow the company more quickly and that he would bring e-commerce skills, which we could not have had at that level otherwise. And he is passionate. So it was the fastest deal in the world [laughing].
WWD: This really changes things for you — you secured the future of the company and are investing in a public company.
D.V.: I like this very much. As you know all the family, we have reinvested in Capri Holding because we really believe in this project. Yes, I sold but I feel it is a bit mine, this Capri Holdings, which is not only Versace but also Jimmy Choo and Michael Kors. I am very happy. I am not afraid and can’t wait to restart.
WWD: Some Italian media have been underscoring how too many Italian brands have been sold to foreign investors. How do you feel about that?
D.V.: This is a beautiful thing that happened to Italy, because Versace is an Italian company and it will remain in Italy. Not only this, but we will also create a lot of jobs. If the company grows, you need more people — I don’t understand the controversy. We did not become Americans —we are Italian and will remain Italian. The fact that the company is publicly listed on Wall Street is added value.
WWD: In light of this growth, do you plan to build your team?
D.V.: Surely, I will see what to do. I have a beautiful team, and naturally, as you know, I am always open to young new talents that can help me, that talk to me and bring a different message and lifestyle. We will set up new factories and this can only help Italy.
WWD: Did you think of the name Capri?
D.V.: [laughing] No, John Idol adores Italy and his wife is Italian. He strongly wanted the Capri name, and the three cliffs are the three brands.