Gianni was born in Reggio Calabria, Italy, on December 2, 1946. Before becoming one of the top fashion designers in the world, he was an apprentince at his mother's dressmaking business and then moved on to work as a freelance designer.
Gianni Versace made up a collection, his first independent assignment, for a clothing firm called "Florentine Flowers". His ready-made apparel was an instant success, so he decided to stay in Milan.
Versace presented his first collection of leather clothes for Complice, making him one of the first designers to use leather during this time.
Gianni Versace's brother Santo Versace moved to Milan permanently to help Gianni in founding the Gianni Versace label. A year later, their sister Donatella joined the Versace team.
The label opened up its first store in Via Spiga, Milan early on in 1978. He debuted with a line of clothing for women, making the house an instant success, and went on to launch a men's line in September. Versace remained an independent label was one of the few designers that retained control of the whole product cycle, from designing to retailing.
Versace collaborated with Richard Avedon for the company’s first photography campaign. Over the years Versace would collaborate with Avedon many times. This same year, his signature fragrance is introduced.
Fun Fashion Fact: Gianni’s younger sister, Donatella, helped supervise the photography campaign. She was said to be his muse.
The first Versace logotype was designed with the font "Avant Garde Light". The designer began working with engineers to develop the unique materials, like mesh and metal, often associated with his eccentric line.
Gianni began a long series of collaborations with the theater world. He began taking part in the costume design for Richard Strauss' ballet, which gave Versace's clothing a new attitude associated with free movement and in turn, dance. In the 1981/82 ballet season of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, he designed all of the costumes for Strauss' Josephslegende.
‘Orton’ – a metal chain-mail invented by Versace – was launched in his collection that was presented at the Paris Opera. The dresses were made of a metal mesh material—an iconic Versace material.
The Versace company expanded into the accessory, jewelry, home furnishing, and fine china industries.
The jury of the Cutty Sark Award named Versace "the most innovative and creative designer in the world." This same year, Gianni opened up his first store in Madrid, Spain; a 600 square-meter showroom.
Versace launched his first Haute Couture collection in Paris and opened Atelier Versace. The “Dresses for Thought” exhibition from Versace was based on Gianni Versace’s 25 years in the fashion and theatre industry and was held at the Sforzesco Castle in Milan. The designer released "Versus", a line for young people that explored informal themes and was an alternative to the "conventional" way of dressing.
The Versace trademark was changed and the figure of the stylised Medusa enclosed by a circle with Greek bordering was adopted. This logo seemed to be designed as if to underscore the classical style of the master designers high-class fashion-wear.
Fun Fashion Fact: This is the same logo found on many of the Tribute Collection Sunglasses.
The "supermodel" phenomenon was born after Gianni Versace sent every top fashion model down the runway for his Autumn and Winer 1991/1992 collections.
Versace designed the stage costumes and album cover costumes for Elton John's world tour. The Versace Home Collection, which included pillows and sheets, was launched this same year.
Versace purchased a home on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida. He spent $33 million on renovating the home and adding mosaics featuring the Versace Medusa logo. In his last years, he lived in this Miami villa with his long-term partner Anontio D'Amico.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America awarded Versace the American Fashion Oscar. He was also honored by the Italian and French Presidents. That same year, Donatella Versace created the "Young Versace" line, which was the company's first children's line. The Blondefragrance was launched this year and the New York flagship store opened its doors.
Gianni Versace's life was tragically taken on the front steps of his Miami villa, Casa Casuarina, by Andrew Cunanan.On July 23, Cunanan killed himself on a house-boat before the U.S. police were able to capture him.
A memorial for Versace was held in Italy at the Duomo, Milan's 14th Century cathedral. Elton John, Princess Diana, Sting, and Naomi Campbell were among the 2,000 attendess, along with Giorgio Armani who was Versace's biggest rival.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted its annual gala with a theme that honored the late Gianni Versace. The accompanying exhibit ran until March of 1998.
At the Spring/Summer 2018 Versace show, Donatella paid tribute to the 20th anniversary of her brother's murder with a finale that included supermodels Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Helena Christensen.