How an Icon’s Little Sister Became One of Fashion’s Greatest Designers

Deft brilliance and business prowess sent Donatella Versace to the top of Italy's fashion world.

By: Rachel Vadaj, ISDA Editor 

The little sister of the late icon and designer Gianni Versace has made a name for herself in and out of the fashion world.

Donatella Versace was born in Reggio Calabria, Italy on May 2, 1955.

She was the youngest of four children. Her other brother, Santo, currently serves as the President of Gianni Versace S.p.A.

Donatella also had an older sister, Tina, who died at the age of 12 from an improperly treated tetanus infection.

In an interview with The New Yorker, Versace described herself as the baby of the family, saying “I was so spoiled. I was the best-dressed little girl in the city.”

In her teenage years, Versace unearthed her trademark look: dyed platinum blonde hair and heavy eyeliner.

Gianni was actually the mastermind behind the look, encouraging Donatella to dye her hair when she was just 11 years old.

Her Italian roots are ever present throughout her life in the way she cared for her family.

She had two children named Allegra and Daniel with model and now-former husband Paul Beck.

In an interview with Vogue, she called her children her greatest achievement.

Despite the near-decade age difference between them, Gianni and Donatella’s strong sibling bond was evident as she served as his fashion muse.

In the 1980s, Gianni launched a fragrance named Blonde in dedication to her. He also gave Donatella her very own label called Versus in 1989, which is styled toward younger audiences.

Just days after the death of her brother, Donatella became Versace’s artistic director.

She also was named vice president and chief designer of Versace Group, upon Gianni’s death.

Donatella inherited a 20% stake in the company while their brother, Santo, was given a 30% stake. The remaining 50% was given to Donatella’s daughter, Allegra, which she claimed on her 18th birthday.

Despite losing her brother in a most horrific way, Donatella turned the tragedy into triumph by carrying on Gianni’s legacy into the 21st century, never forfeiting the fashion empire that is still a household name.

Donatella was featured on the small screen in 2017 in FX’s Emmy-award winning series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. The nine-episode season dives into the personal lives of Gianni and Donatella, from their humble Italian roots and first taste of the fashion world, to his untimely death and how his legacy was carried on by his family–especially Donatella.

Penelope Cruz took on the role as the late fashion icon’s younger sister.

Donatella’s role throughout the show is summarized in one line given after Gianni’s death, and how she had to officially take control to be sure the company stayed alive:

“I will not allow that man, that nobody, to kill my brother twice.”

More than 20 years after her brother’s death, Donatella finally came to a point where she was ready to release The Versace Tribute Collection in Spring of 2018. In the collection’s video, Donatella stated, “This collection is a tribute to the life and works of Gianni. We pay homage to not only his artistic genius but to who he was as a man, and above all, as my brother.” Five of Gianni’s original supermodels also paid tribute to the late designer by walking down the runway for the collection.

In 2018, Capri Holdings acquired all of the outstanding shares of Italian luxury fashion house Gianni Versace, and describes the brand as been representing the epitome of Italian fashion luxury, a testament to the brand’s timeless heritage, for over 40 years.

When the transaction with Capri Holdings was finalized, Donatella said in the release: “I am proud that Versace remains very strong in both fashion and modern culture.

Versace is not only synonymous with its iconic and unmistakable style, but with being inclusive and embracing of diversity, as well as empowering people to express themselves.”

As of March 2019, Celebrity Net Worth estimates Donatella has $400 million to her name.


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