Donatella Versace (DV): Times have certainly changed and the road has not always been downhill. It was challenging to remain relevant, it’s hard to keep up with the constant changes that technologies make us face every day. We have to be flexible and open-minded in order to understand how the public and the customers are evolving. Heritage is important but what’s even more so is to not remain anchored to the past. You always have to look ahead and be yourself, be creative. For many years I have lived under the pressure of expectations, judgments, wrong advice. Now after so long, I think I have found my own voice and that the brand is where I want it to be.
ELLE: How would you define Versace’s growth? And what would you say about the fashion industry–how has that changed in your opinion?
DV: Today, Versace is part of a cultural conversation that goes beyond fashion itself. I think that this means that our work has inspired people and supported communities. We have dared, broken the rules, and yet remained relevant. Fashion as we knew it 20 years ago has evolved into something completely new… at that time internet did not exist, pre-collections did not exist, there were two fashion shows a year and that was your collection, that was your moment. Today the dynamics of the fashion industry have changed, everything is so immediate and fast.
ELLE: What is your first fashion memory?
DV: To be honest with you, when I started, I did not think of fashion as a career. During my university years, I used to go from Florence to Milan to spend my weekends with Gianni. He wanted me to work with him, but at the beginning I was not sure. Little by little, he managed to involve me until I became part of this world without even realising it. Initially, I wasn’t much involved with the design process. I was working on advertising campaigns, on the image of the brand but Gianni would always seek my opinion when it came down to the collection.
ELLE: In one of your interviews, you’ve said, ‘We need more women in politics, more women CEOs. Women becoming top models, that’s not enough.’ You have always been a champion when it comes to women empowerment and feminism. What are your thoughts on the current global scenario when it comes to women in general? A lot has changed but a lot more needs to change. Tell us more.
DV: I still do. And I think that the change must start from us. In fact, today at Versace women represent 64 per cent of the employees and 48 per cent are executives. Regardless of all the progresses that have been made, still today, women have to prove themselves more than men have to, women have to fight harder to have their voices heard. I think there is still a problem of credibility when it comes to women in positions of authority: it is still hard for them to have their opinions and actions validated by others. I say this from my own experience. I was the only woman at the helm of the company. It took me a long time to really be heard, trusted, and recognised as capable within my own company.
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