Versace Spring 2017 Menswear
Donatella Versace shot a movie before she designed her latest collection. No, the blonde bombshell hasn’t finally taken to the silver screen—alongside Bruce Weber she spent four days in Chicago, photographing her Fall 2016 Versace campaign and shooting a 20-odd-minute film to go with it. A shortened version of said film played at the start of her Spring 2017 show—another example of fashion scrambling perceptions of seasons right now. And, oddly, the experience of shooting the Fall campaign inspired Versace’s Spring menswear show. “The four most inspirational days,” was how Versace herself described it. “I brought almost all my design team to see—because they’d never be able to see this. We came back, and we designed the collection in five days!”
It’s probably difficult to hang around with Weber for that length of time and not produce a menswear show inspired, to some degree, by the vision of masculinity he has so decidedly fashioned over the past three decades. He’s contributed plenty to Versace’s own canon of male imagery, throbbing with sexuality, frequently undressed, rippling with muscle. Hunks in trunks. However, as opposed to Donatella’s frequent priapic predilections, it was the dancers of Weber’s film that inspired her—body-popping and gyrating in Versace workout gear, their mood translated to the runway in a focus on athletic shapes, featherweight fabrications, and plenty of movement. The billowing Versace silk shirts of yore were transposed to fluttering floor-length parkas—some slung over flesh-colored jerseys, some just slung over flesh. Old habits die hard. Look at those billowing coats long enough, rendered in the collection’s rich shades of blue, claret, jasper green, and Tyrian purple, and they began to resemble the airborne drapery in Renaissance paintings. Crossed with, maybe, a modern Olympian. They’re about to kick off in Rio after all. And Versace loves a Greek god—either on her clothes, or inside them.
When there was skin on show, it was below the waist as opposed to above. Meaning leg. Lots of leg, bared by shorts wide-cut or cycle pants cleaved to meaty thighs. They were part of a new line of Versace Active performance gear, alongside knit leggings that left little to the imagination. They were teamed with everything, from sweaters to tailored jackets to more of those blousy blousons.
It’s usually easy to pinpoint why a Versace show works—or, indeed, doesn’t. Sometimes it’s when Donatella goes troppo, layering on the ornament, the gilt, the razzmatazz with wanton disregard for traditional good taste. Those are usually great fun, and only fail to sate when they don’t go quite far enough. A memorable menswear outing starring studded chaps a few seasons ago is a prime example of the former, even if you doubt any men would ever wear them.This show was different: It felt modern, relevant. It felt like it could actually have an impact on your wardrobe. Donatella used the word “Real” to describe the Weber film, and this felt real too. Not just because teaming activewear with ready-to-wear feels not like a modern suggestion of how to dress, but a modern way we do dress already, here offered in deluxe variations, teaming technical fibers with silks, messenger-slung bags and lightweight sneakers and sandals. The lightness translated across everything—leathers were perforated, knits fine-gauge. A member of the design team told me that the coats were crafted using dressmaking techniques, rather than tailoring, to keep everything supple and pliant.
You know what feels modern? That. Not spiky metallic futurism or odd, post-modern mixes of eras and garments. But clothes that are soft to the touch and gentle on the body. Something sensuous, enjoyable to wear. Clothes that make you look good, but feel better. Versace coined the phrase “gentleman” when talking about this show—but it felt more like a gentle man.
It also felt decidedly Donatella—her best work is always personal, and this combined her twin loves of sports and fashion. Alongside a bit of sexiness. There was a more poignant personal touch too: Both the show and Weber’s film throbbed to a soundtrack of never-before-heard songs written and recorded as a gift to Donatella by the late, great Prince. A clutch of male and female models for evening emerged dressed in his hallmark jabot, while Donatella took her final bow in trademark purple (empress, rather than emperor) as tribute. This collection, imbued with energy and the joy of movement, felt like another.