Today marks 24 years since fashion mogul Gianni Versace was killed at the age of 50. Before his death, Versace was known as a radical, given that his designs crossed creative boundaries with their artsy, sultry, and controversial flares. His eye-catching brilliant colors of clothing blended well into contemporary fashion. ‘‘I think it’s the responsibility of a designer to try to break the rules and barriers,’‘ he once said. ”I’m a little like Marco Polo, going around and mixing cultures.“
Fashion loved Versace, in return, Versace rewarded his admirers with phenomenal designs. “By now, it is part of my life-cycle. I cannot distinguish myself from my work. It is always there, as necessary to me as drinking water,” he once told a reporter.
Versace left behind $807 million business, 130 boutiques worldwide, $30,000 dresses, and $50 jeans with his Medusa logo.
Those who know Versace say his spirit was uplifting, reserved, and unassuming, in stark contrast to many creative visionaries in the entertainment world who struggle to relate. “I understand people, and I have a good business sense. My life is completely down-to-earth; I only go out when it is necessary for my work. The rest of the time, I stay at home and read lots of newspapers and loads of books,” Versace told an interviewer.
A killer’s chance encounter with Versace
Anna Wintour, who was the editor of Vogue magazine, told an interviewer. “[Versace was] the first to realize the value of the celebrity in the front row, and the value of the supermodel, and put fashion on an international media platform.” Celebrities such as actress Angelina Jolie and Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives, boxer Mike Tyson, the late singer Prince, and models Cindy Crawford and Gisele Bündchen, who is the highest-paid model and 16th richest woman in the entertainment industry, all wanted a taste of Versace’s brilliance.
Andrew Cunanan was said to have had an IQ over 100, but rather than focus on college, he chose a career in the dangerous world of male prostitution. The documentary Gianni Versace: The Story of His Final 24 Hours alleges Cunanan briefly met Versace seven years earlier at a party. While it’s unclear if Cunanan and Versace had a sexual encounter, based on interviews, Cunanan became obsessed with Versace.
Cunanan arrived in Miami from New York after murdering four people in four different states. He was 27-years-old and on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted list. His life equaled a backyard junk dog sleeping around with men to buy hardcore drugs. In fact, he was convinced he caught HIV. On the morning of July 15, 1997, Versace, born on December 2, 1946, in Reggio Calabria in Italy, was on his way home to his luxury villa apartment in Miami after taking a morning stroll.
Versace was raised in a humble working-class family where criminal activity in the community wasn’t the norm. Not to mention that Versace lived on the first floor in an upscale neighborhood. According to reports, on July 15, 1997, as Versace entered his apartment, Cunanan ambushed him and fired two bullets at Versace’s head, killing him instantly. Versace had been in a long-term love partnership with former model and fashion designer Antonio D’amico; D’amico was home at the time of the killing.
After murdering Versace, Cunanan walked peacefully through a frantic crowd. Although a massive manhunt for Cunanan was already active, after he murdered Versace, law enforcement ramped up their efforts to bring Cunanan to justice. After four weeks on the run, law enforcement surrounded a boat that Cunanan had broken into. Instead of turning himself in, Cunanan committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
Family was everything to Versace. His brother, Santo, and his sister, Donatella, played significant roles in his business. Donatella was creative director and designed the Versace’s Versus collection. Santo was president of the company, Paul Beck, who was Donatella’s husband, was director of Versace’s men’s wear, while D’Amico was responsible for designing Versace Sportswear Influence the Fashion World.
If Versace put on a sizzling showcase to unveil his newest clothing line, his family sat front row. In his will, Versace left most of his fortune to his nephew Allegra, while another portion had provisions that D’amico would receive a monthly allowance of $28,000.
Versace’s father, Antonio, was a merchant, and his mother Francesca was a seamstress whose passion significantly influenced a then 9-year-old Versace’s love for fashion. His breakthrough in the fashion world came after he presented his first clothing collection in 1970, named Palazzo Della Permanente. Versace’s showed talent with his ability to produce stunning combinations of different clothing materials, from leather mixed with lace to dazzling Swarovski crystals—which became his trademark years later. He was given the lofty nickname “king of fashion,” which was befitting.
Netflix produced a documentary called “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” which is now available.