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MILAN — Donatella Versace is going fast-fashion.

This story first appeared in the June 22, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The designer is the latest to link with H&M for a limited edition collection that launches Nov. 17 in 300 stores worldwide, as well as online. The line will include women’s and men’s wear as well as, for the first time in a designer collaboration, some homeware.

The collection will be based on heritage Versace designs, particularly the Miami print made famous by her late brother Gianni.

“The moment is right to be rehashing iconic Versace pieces, I can feel it in the air,” mused Donatella Versace in an exclusive interview. “H&M represents an amazing connection to a broader customer base and to a younger audience that loves Versace but can’t afford to buy it. This is especially exciting and stimulating for me.”

The sexy, colorful, printed and down-to-the-last-stud Versace collection that she is preparing for H&M is likely to generate the same mayhem as the retailer’s past designer collaborations by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Alber Elbaz, Stella McCartney, Roberto Cavalli and Jimmy Choo. Versace also developed a pre-spring collection for H&M available exclusively in countries with H&M online sales from Jan. 19.

“Versace is one of the most important brands of recent times and their collection for H&M will be glamorous and extraordinary — everything Versace stands for,” said Margareta van den Bosch, creative adviser at H&M. “This is such a celebratory collaboration and is perfect for the festive season.”


Versace, who said she took on the collection before Lady Gaga recently requested to wear archival Versace, is reworking the house’s exuberant heritage and high-wattage va-va-voom in full force, or as she puts it, “not for the shy.”

Besides leather, studs and glistening chain mail, the designer reinvented a number of foulard prints, most notably the best-selling, brand-defining Miami one, ablaze with a wild palm and sea motif.

Dresses are the key silhouettes, generally skimming the body and accessorized with high heels and bold costume jewelry. The men’s portion will feature sharp tailoring and tuxedos. 

While H&M designers were impressed with the house’s archives, Versace said they were adept at sourcing silks and leathers at bargain prices that look anything but cheap. “There won’t be a polyester piece in sight,” she warned.

Hennes & Mauritz, which is scheduled to publish its six-month report today, has opted to maintain prices despite a sharp increase in the cost of labor and raw materials including cotton, thereby putting pressure on its margins.

Analysts expect it to reveal a drop in earnings after the company reported last week that sales excluding value-added tax (VAT) rose 2 percent to 27.6 billion Swedish kronor, or $4.4 billion, during its fiscal second quarter, which runs from March 1 to May 31, partly due to the sharp appreciation of the Swedish currency.

The H&M venture further fuels Versace’s momentum, which has seen recently strong ready-to-wear collections and a focused business plan developed by chief executive officer Gian Giacomo Ferraris.

The company underwent an extensive restructuring program in 2009. While the Italian luxury house expects to return to the black in 2011, it posted a gain in revenues and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in 2010 and more than halved its debt.

The firm is launching a new children’s line under the Young Versace brand that will bow for spring 2012 and recently introduced the women’s diffusion line Versace Collection Donna. It opened 55 stores for the line, with 25 franchised stores planned for this year. The company also plans to reenter the Japanese market in 2011 and Donatella Versace unveiled a new concept store in Beijing last winter. The brand plans to open five stores in China this year.

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