Versace Unveils Budget Fashion Line for H&M

Versace, Designed for H&M

The queen of Italy’s top fashion house takes her creations to H&M. Times have changed.

It’s 3:30 on a recent Friday afternoon at an atelier in Milan, and Donatella Versace is fashionably late for her own photo shoot. Ninety minutes late. In the background, a slew of lab-coat-wearing seamstresses work on couture gowns. Red-carpet shots of stars such as Charlize Theron and Jessica Biel are taped on the walls. Nearby, a very well-groomed young man in a tuxedo jacket is futzing with a dangling drape on one of the windows, clearly nervous about the lack of glamour such an image conveys. Another assistant reports that Donatella is due to arrive any minute, which in Versace time means simply “not yet.”

Finally, at 4:05, she rolls in, wearing a slinky black dress and sky-high stilettos, trailed by a phalanx of subordinates. (“It’s in her DNA to be late,” says Franca Sozzani, the editor in chief of Italian Vogue and a close friend of Donatella’s for many years.) She clutches a pack of Marlboro Reds and a lighter bedazzled with rhinestones. There’s water on a tray behind her, in a large glass emblazoned with the Versace Medusa-head logo. These things—the cigarette lighter, her Reds, and that glass of water—accompany Donatella everywhere. “We don’t know how that glass gets there every time, but it always does,” a member of her staff says.

The photographer begins shooting, only to be interrupted within seconds so that someone can restraighten Donatella’s hair, which, of course, is straight as a pin to begin with. In short, Donatella appears to be every bit the Saturday Night Live parody of herself, her very own Maya Rudolph impersonation come to life. That is, until she opens her mouth and an entirely different person emerges.

First comes the apology for being late. Then, Donatella starts peppering the photographer with questions about where she comes from and compliments her on using film in a digital age: “I can’t believe it,” the fashion maven says in her thick Italian accent. “No one uses it anymore, and I so prefer it. You know, the photo—it just look different. It has soul.”

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