A designer. A model. A shining example of what it means to be a strong woman. Donatella Versace is so many things, all of which came to light during a 30-minute dialogue with InStyle's own Fashion News Director Eric Wilson about her new tome Versace ($58; amazon.com) to a crowd of fashion students and celebrity friends (Helena Christensen and Leigh Lezark included) at the Times Center in Midtown Manhattan—just one of many stops on her global book tour.
Together, the two talked through Versace's legendary, history-making ad campaigns shot by equally legendary photographers Bruce Weber and Richard Avedon, starting from the '90s to the most recent. But who is Donatella, really? On the outside, she's an icon (with a perfectly well-maintained tan and trademark platinum blonde hair—a look so many have attempted to emulate), someone who has shaped the fashion landscape, built the Versace house on the image of strong independent women, and has been fearless with her, at times controversial, campaigns. Through her hilarious remarks and contagious laughter, here's everything we learned about the designer and the brand from the Q&A.
1. She was one of the first designers to be the face of a brand. Donatella modeled for Versace in the '90s, shot by Richard Avedon. "I wanted to be [in the campaign]—no one was pushing me," she said of the decision. "Richard was difficult to work with, but he was a genius."
2. Jennifer Lopez's famous Versace dress from the 2000 Grammy Awards was an accident. "I made a mistake and sent that dress to her, and she said: 'What should I do? It's so open," she recalled. "I said, use double-stick tape!" The dress was also the catalyst for Google Image search.
3. She considers fashion an art. "Well, I love image. I love photographers. I love art," she stated.
4. She doesn't take herself too seriously. After Wilson said it was amazing how she plays with her image, she replied back with: "Yes, of course—you can't take yourself too seriously."
5. She is actually very shy. Just like Prince—the two were very close. "We were good friends for so many years," she said. "Prince was a genius, not only in music."
6. Yet, she likes to be in charge. "In editorial, I'm not in charge—somebody else is in charge for you," she commented on whether she likes editorial or advertising. "I like to be in charge."
7. Her friends in fashion are her family. It's why she agreed to star in designer Riccardo Tisci's campaign for Givenchy.
9. She takes her dog Audrey everywhere she goes. "I always bring Audrey with me, on planes, on shoots—she's a professional," she said. "She's very intelligent."
10. She brings the Versace world with her. Wilson revealed that she brought Versace furnishings and glassware to the talk.
11. She prefers supermodels. "After the supermodel moment [in the '90s], it was plain girls with no makeup—for me, it was sad," she said. "The new models are gorgeous, strong, beautiful—they're not afraid, not shy."