Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Flashback: Versace Haute Couture Fall Winter 1997

In July of 1997, twelve years ago to the very day, I was eleven years old, and I can still remember what I was doing when I heard that Gianni Versace was killed. It's kind of like how people my parents age remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard that President Kennedy was killed. It's one of those memories that remains crystal clear among the haze of other moments in your life. At the time I knew the name Versace, thought I had no idea just how significant he was and how big a deal his death would be. As it turned out, Gianni's swan song, shown a mere week before he was killed, made for quite a final statement. I doubt anyone at the time, including Gianni himself, could have realized just how forward this collection would turn out to be. I mean, being ten years ahead of fashion is like being 100 years ahead in normal time. Now over a decade has passed, and only a blind person could fail to see how influential this collection has been. The biggest story in the collection, both literally and figuratively, was Versace's attempt to bring back the mega shoulder pad of the 80s. Everything including jackets, razor sharp LBDs, knit tops worn with mini skirts and Versace's signature slinky goddess gowns were built on a padded shoulder. Looking at the pictures, these are clothes that could easily have turned up on any number of catwalks in recent seasons. Also, you can't help but notice the similarities between the sharp shouldered black tailoring in this collection and the sharp shoulders that Margiela has been pushing since 2007. Though you can credit Margiela for helping to jump start the current shoulder pad obsession, credit is due to Gianni for putting the idea out there that 80s-style shoulder pads even could be brought back. Not to mention that some of the looks are just uncannily similar to things that Margiela has shown. You'll have to draw your own conclusions from that.

Along with the sharp, aggressive tailoring and major shoulder pads there were floral brocade cocktail sheaths, sparkling crystal mesh mini dresses, padded tubular straps, asymmetric mandarin collars, Japanese floral and Byzantine cross embroideries, corseted leather and gold chain mail mini dresses. The whole collection was distinctly Versace, but from what I've seen of Gianni's archival work this collection is a bit harder and darker than his usual fare...which of course means I love it. Because of the fact that there's virtually no patterns/prints, much less color and embellishment and a predominantly strict silhouette, this collection comes off as almost minimal by Versace standards. Of course, knowing what would happen to Gianni after this collection was shown the dark, severe, borderline somber mood of this collection takes on a certain poignancy. It's a shame that the world never got the chance to see what Gianni would do next, because this collection and the RTW collection shown before it hint at a harder, darker, more streamlined direction. I honestly don't know what the general consensus on this collection is within the industry, but for me this makes for an amazing final gesture from a legendary designer.

Here are all of the images from the collection. Obviously they're not in order, but they're worth looking at anyway.

And unfortunately since YouTube is run by fascists you can no longer hear the music in this short clip of the show, but it was "Smack My Bitch Up" mixed with a bit of opera. Good stuff.

all images from


bronze_amazon said...

Thank you for posting this. I can see the inspiration for the movie, 'Black Swan.'

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