Ever since its establishment in 1978, the Versace brand, an illustrious Italian household name, has been a staple of the modern, confident woman. After Gianni Versace’s untimely death in 1997, Donatella Versace strived to grab hold of the reigns of the behemoth brand, and produce clothes, season after season, that could ravish and enchant just like her predecessor had done. Sadly, that was not the case. Although never officially confirmed, it can be inferred that due to Versace’s lackluster results with past seasons, the brand found itself in a precarious state: to sell, or to put an end to the three-decade old family business. The brand decided to sell, news that was made official on September 23, 2018, when Michael Kors – owner of his very own label, Michael Kors, as well as the Malaysian brand Jimmy Choo – decided to snap up Versace for the modest price of $2.1 billion. Kors is following the footsteps of conglomerates such as Kering and LVMH Möet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
The implications of this transaction are countless. The appeal of brands like Versace are that they rely on their trademark of “Made in Italy.” This is a source of pride for many couturiers and ateliers where craftsmanship is regarded as part of the cultural patrimony. Take that craftsmanship away, and what is left is a garment ransacked of a cultural identity. It feels as if today, in the name of international identity, fashion brands relinquish their grip on national identity in favor of a global, bland, street-wear influenced style, that speaks to everyone and to no one. Vivienne Westwood was forward-looking when she declared, in 2016, that as a society we no longer have any regard for our history, stating: “We don’t have any artists today, they don’t have any vision whatsoever and that’s why they are not artists… The only people who have any culture are the ones who don’t throw away the past.” That is exactly the issue at stake: in selling Versace – and everything else that comes with ravaging a brand of its locus, of its cultural DNA – one is throwing out countless years and traditions, all in the name of money. Although Donatella still remains at the creative helm, the brand essentially no longer moves and breathes Italian. It breathes American – something the brand never was.
In selling to Kors, Versace is also rescinding the “pact” Donatella made to Gianni after taking over the company in 1997. By refusing to list the brand on the New York stock exchange, Donatella sealed a deal to keep his brother, as well as his company, alive and, quite simply, private. While it would be unjust and cruel to imply that selling the company equates to breaching her promise to Gianni, Donatella and her slew of lawyers, managers, and consultants, managed to glaze over a significant detail: instead of trying at all costs to keep raking-in money, moving forward in a bigger and grander scheme, it might have been wiser to bring the Versace brand to a halt and let it find peace and satisfaction with the triumph of having existed with its “Made in Italy” label for over 20 years. And yet, in the name of money, corporate brands refuse to slow down and insist on keeping the empire going, risking the eradication of their past accomplishments.