“Fashion till death” could be the Versace family motto. The creative genius of Gianni made his family kings and queens of the glitterati world.
Santo and Donatella and Gianni Versace grew up in Calabria, Italy. As Gianni learnt his craft from his dressmaker mother, Donatella played his creative muse. As a precocious child of 11, she was already dying her hair blonde and wearing her brother’s designs.
Work as a knitwear designer took Gianni to Florence in the mid 1970s. Donatella followed. While she studied Italian literature at university, she would hang out with her brother and his fashion crowd at the weekends.
Gianni moved on to Milan and Donatella once again followed. The plan was for her to work as Gianni’s PR agent when he launched his company in 1978. But that plan was quickly scrapped, the designer preferring his sister as a muse and critic.
Gianni’s’ brutal murder in 1997 left his bereaved sister at the head of the multi-million fashion house. Three months after Gianni’s death, Donatella turned out a ready-to-wear collection, followed by a mainline collection the following spring.
Since the death of Gianni, the Versace company has seen its value halve to 250 million. In July 2004, Donatella was admitted to a rehab clinic in an attempt to rid her of her cocaine addiction.
She last appeared in public at the Versace men’s show in June 2006, very thin and wearing a wig or hair extensions. It is believed her hair has fallen out as a result of her addiction.
Donatella is married to former male model Paul Beck with whom she has a son, Daniel, and a daughter, Allegra. After her uncle's death, it was Allegra, then aged 11, who inherited the most part of his fortune, including a 45 per cent share in the Versace family business. Beck is in charge of Versace's advertising.