Versace: A history

First published: 04-08-2014

Versace, an international fashion house that produces watches, clothes and jewellery, was started by Gianni Versace in 1978.

The designer was born in Reggio di Calabria, Italy on December 2nd, 1946 and was ?exposed to ?the world of fashion from a young age due to his mother being a dressmaker.

Once he completed high school, the budding designer went to work for her, where he gained valuable experience that would set him up for his later career.

He moved to Milan when he was 26 to get involved in the fashion industry and began working for names such as Genny and Callaghan. A few years later in 1978, he launched his first ready-to-wear collection for women in this Italian city and this marked the first of many collections that he would unveil. 

Versace became known for producing glamorous clothes?, often using materials that were a little different to the norm. These included aluminium mesh or fusing leather and rubber. In addition, the head of Medusa - a figure from Greek mythology who had snakes for hair and could petrify with a single glare - featured heavily and even became a hallmark of his work.

His first couture collection was launched in 1989, while two clothing lines - Versus and Instante - became part of the family in the 1990s. 

A landmark achievement was arguably the dress he created for Elizabeth Hurley in 1994. This was held together by safety pins and is seen as helping to catapult her into stardom as she wore it to the London premiere of Four Weddings And A Funeral. More recently, Lady Gaga brought this creation out of the archives and wore it in 2012, bringing back memories of the Versace masterpiece.

Mr Versace also built up many relationships with famous faces including Elton John, Diana Princess of Wales, Naomi Campbell and Madonna. Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour was quoted by the New York Times as saying he was "the first to realise the value of celebrity in the front row and the value of the supermodel, and put fashion on an international media platform."

Tragedy struck when Mr Versace was shot dead in 1997??. The story has it that instead of sending his assistant out one morning to collect the morning papers, the fashion maestro chose to undertake this errand himself. En route, he was shot by 27-year-old Andrew Cunanan, who is believed to have killed at least four other people in a three-month period, before killing himself with the same gun.  

The Wall Street Journal reports that net profits for the company soared by 28 per cent in 2013 in comparison with the year before, reaching €10.9 million (£8.7 million). In total, revenue stands at €472.9 million - a 17 per cent hike - while sales in the US and Asia were both higher than 12 months earlier. This is particularly pleasing for the firm that came perilously close to bankruptcy in 2004 and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the watch-making company. 

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