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Born in Reggio, Calabria, Italy, Gianni Versace moved to Milan at the age of 25 and worked as a fashion designer, drawing his first ready-to-wear collections for Genny, Complice, and Callaghan. In 1978, he presented his first collection, signed with his own name, at a fashion show in Milan. The following year he began a collaboration with photographer Richard Avedon. Mr. Versace’s famed designs have crossed over into the world of opera, dance, music, and the stage.
In 1982, Mr. Versace won the first of many awards, “L’Occhio d’Oro” for the best fashion designer of the 1982-1983 Fall-Winter collection for women; in this collection he displays the famous metal garments, now a classic feature of his fashion. In the same year, he began a collaboration with the Teatro alla Scala, designing costumes for the Richard Strauss ballet Josephlegende. In 1983, also for La Scala, he designed costumes for Joseph Russillo’s Lieb und Leid, Donizetti’s opera Don Pasquale, and Maurice Bejart’s Dyonisos. Mr. Bejart also choreographed a triptych dance in honor of the launch of the fragrance for men Versace l’Homme.
Mr. Versace’s designs for theatre, opera, and ballet include Bejart’s La Metamorphose des Dieux, Bob Wilson’s staging of Richard Strauss’ Salome for La Scala, Bejart’s Leda and the Swan, Bejart’s “Ballet of the XX Siecle,” broadcast throughout the world from Leningrad as part of The White Nights of Dance, Souvenir de Leningrad by Bejart’s new dance company, and Chaka Zulu, inspired by Leopold Senghor’s poem, celebrating the Bicentenary of the French Revolution. Additional costume designs included the San Francisco Opera’s production of Richard Strauss’ Capriccio, ballets by William Forsythe which were staged at the Statische Buhnen in Frankfurt, and for Elton John’s 1992 world tour.
In September, 1992, as testimonial for the Italian Trade Commission, Mr. Versace inaugurated the charity gala Rock’N Rule, the profits of which were given to the Amfar anti-AIDS Association. In the same year, Mr. Versace was honored by New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology with a retrospective show of his work “Versace Signatures.”
In January, 1986, the President of the Italian Republic, Francesco Cossiga, conferred the decoration of “Commendatore della Repubblica Italiana” on him; and later that same year he was awarded the “Grande Medaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris,” and the “Maschera D’Argento” prize for his huge professional contribution to the theatre. In 1987, the book Versace Teatro was published. A second volume was published in 1992.
In February, 1993, the Council of Fashion Designers of America presented Mr. Versace with the much-coveted CFDA award, and the book South Beach Stories was published. In March, 1993, Maurice Bejart staged the ballet Sissi, the Anarchic Empress at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, with Mr. Versace’s irreplaceable costumes.
In 1994, Mr. Versace launched two new fragrances, and opened the traveling exhibition, Versace Signatures at the Kunstgewerbmuseum. The exhibition includes a section dedicated to his “Home” line, timeless fashion, embroideries, prints, leather, and theatre costumes.