A Legacy from Versace

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 August, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 August, 1997, 12:00am

When the Milan catwalk shows begin in early October, during which designers will unveil their spring/summer 1998 collections, the eyes of the international fashion press will be squarely focused on a single runway - that of Gianni Versace.

The flamboyant designer was murdered in Miami last month, leaving a US$500 million-a-year (about HK$3.87 billion) company and only the beginnings of his vision for the season ahead.

On these pages are components of the last collection the late Versace was able to complete and stage in his signature star-studded, theatrical way, his autumn/winter 1997 collection.

Though, over the past few years, the designer had contrived to steer his label away from the migraine-inducing prints and colours that had come to define it, the pageantry of Versace's work never paled.

The designer was often quoted as saying he designed for people 'with big egos'. Be that as it may, his detractors also believed his glitzy metal mesh dresses, super-short skirts and garish colours might have looked on the wrong side of cheap - though price tags are anything but.

Flashes of his autumn/winter 1997 collection do reveal something of his softer, saner side - even if at the core of the line is his grandiose use of colour - jewel shades, neon brights and art deco-inspired black-and-whites.

His established stylistics are entrenched in tailoring, a skill that developed after his early education in architecture. Versace's most enduring legacy has been to sharply and definitively outline the silhouette of the woman he dresses.

And his repertoire - in this collection as much as ever - is a pastiche of filmy chiffon sheaths covered with a constellation of rhinestones, razor-sharp tailored suits and draped jersey dresses.

Speculation over who will accede to the Versace throne has been rampant: the most obvious choice would appear to be the designer's younger sister and longtime muse Donatella.

In all her exuberance and extravagance, she is the quintessential Versace woman. And given that she had worked with her brother since he began his label in 1978, she is closer to the heart of the company, and the ingredients that have created its success, than anyone.

But Italian fashion industry sources believe that Ms Versace does not have the profile nor hands-on experience.

The company is not yet hard-pressed to make a decision. As a Versace spokesman in Hong Kong said: 'Nothing has changed yet.' Model: Eunice Chan Styling, hair and make-up: Caroline Nie