Donatella Versce had a wide-ranging talk in front of the Oxford Student Union on Wednesday, addressing everything from how she coped with the death of her brother Gianni Versace to how women can use fashion as means of defense.
"Fashion is a weapon that you can use when you need it," Versace said in a live interview with fashion journalist Tim Blanks. "I think my own look makes people think I'm tough but when they get to know me I'm very different. It's like armor that was useful to me in the first years after Gianni's death. . . I don't mean to sound like a martyr — just to make the point that I used my personal image to hide all these emotions."
Versace also talked about selling fashion in a tough economy, saying that she was glad to work with H&M on a lower-priced line. "I had no idea how they'd make my designs come to life at those prices, but they did it without restricting me at all," she said. As for her main collection, Versace said high-end clothing still sells because she pushes the envelope in terms of aesthetic and innovation.
"Designers have to ensure that their brand stays in the real world — like we have, hopefully, with Versus — but then you have to work hard to make sure the creativity survives," she said. "In hard times you still have to be extreme. My job now is to make our aesthetic evolve while remaining truly Versace — I want to make dresses that every woman wants: sexy and jaw-dropping — I always want it to be relevant but I also want it to be always about glamour."