Sexy, Bold and Glam: Collection for H&M the “Essence of Versace” According to Donatella
When news broke that Donatella Versace had agreed to collaborate with H&M on a high street collection there were mixed reactions in the fashion world, to say the least. Many were excited to see how the House of Versace would translate their sexy glam esthetic to lesser priced clothing. Others couldn’t help but note that the decision was quite an about face for Donatella, who had previously declared Versace would never follow in the footsteps of Lagerfeld and Lanvin and create such a collection. Then there were those who were reserving judgment, rightly unsure just how much a high street designer collaboration would benefit a consumer who may be getting a “name brand” product, but without the quality or high end fabrics that have made the original so exclusive. There is also always the delicate act of balancing the massive exposure gained from collaboration with a retailer like H&M and the damage it may do to the exclusivity of a high end brand. Knowing that all this must have been taken into consideration by Versace prior to the star studded runway show, which launched the collection in New York on November 9th, only ramped up the anticipation.
Would Donatella succeed in making her high street Versace vision a reality? Would the collection indeed be the “essence of Versace” as the designer promised? And would the bold Versace trademarks like loud prints, studs and metallics work with lower cost materials? The consensus seems to be that Versace has done very well translating their signature styles into clothing that isn’t cost prohibitive for the every woman–or man. And while the brash styles may not be for everyone (they certainly are “joyful” as Donatella described the collection), they certainly will satisfy a certain demographic lusting after the bold and sexy Versace look.
The Versace-H&M launch was filled with celebrities like Uma Thurman and Blake Lively, and also included performances by stars like Prince, all seemingly eager to get a look at what the Italians had come up with for the Swedish mass market retailer. Most of the reviews of the sixty piece woman’s collection, which includes both clothing and accessories (there are also pieces for men), have been on the positive side. The Versace look and vibe were definitely honored, and some of the brand’s most iconic pieces inspired the H&M styles. One fashion critic, Hadley Freeman of the UK’s Guardian, wrote of Versace and the collection: “The label is associated with molto molto sexiness, with tiny metallic dresses and wildly over-the-top prints. These clothes look incredible when done with expensive fabrics and tailoring…but a lot less so when done on the cheap. But in New York on Tuesday night, Donatella Versace proved such cynicism wrong. Mainly. She wisely perceived that what H&M shoppers want is not just the designer name in their clothes; they want to dress like the celebrities they have seen wear those designer’s clothes.” Freeman praised the prints and overall quality of many of the pieces, although suggested that the metallic numbers were perhaps lacking in the latter category.
The launch is just another seemingly successful chapter in the rise of Donatella Versace, one slightly marred by recent reports in The New York Daily News that the designer had barred two “regular” size women from a Versace/H&M shoot because they didn’t fit the label’s image. While an H&M spokesperson called the situation a “misunderstanding,” it does call to mind a similar situation that involved Karl Lagerfeld. The German designer is said to have ended his association with H&M when the retail giant wanted to produce Lagerfeld’s collection for them in plus sizes. In the ongoing fashion war over size these incidents are a reminder that no resolution has yet been reached.
For those who want a little slice of the sexy Versace image–including bright colors, sexy cuts and out-there prints, including iconic designs like the Greek key and leaf pattern–there is certainly a lot to choose from. Crowds have already been reported outside H&M stores in London, where the collection has gone on sale today and where fans lined up over night to get first dibs on the limited edition threads. Fashionistas in North America, however, will have to wait until November 19th for their chance to grab a slice of the Versace pie.