A: Allen, Woody. Shortly before Versace’s death, it was reported that he had agreed to appear in a forthcoming movie, written and directed by Woody Allen. Filming was due to start in the autumn of 1997.
B: Biba. Versace first visited Britain in the late 1960s. The young designer made the trip from Italy to see Biba. He was so impressed by Barbara Hulaniki’s styles and the swinging London vibe that he became a regular visitor to the city. “London is either very boring or very mad,” he explained in 1992.
C: Capote. Some questioned Versace’s decision to establish a home on Miami’s outré South Beach. He brushed aside concerns for his safety. “Here, in Miami I don’t want another monastery to live in. I want a place to read Truman Capote,” he said.
D: Drop Dead Glamour. “Drop dead glamour” was an expression synonymous with Gianni Versace’s clothes. “To-die-for frocks” was another,” Judy Rumbold wrote in the British Guardian. “That throwaway remarks as pithy as these might ever be credited with even a shred of literal meaning will be a sobering thought for the fashion industry mourning the loss of one of its favourite characters.”
E: Evangelista, Linda. Despire Linda Evangelista being one of Versace’s favourite models, her taste for practical jokes could backfire on the family. On one occasion Evangelista sneaked Gianni’s niece Allerga, then nine, onto the catwalk. Afterwards, as Donatella tore a terrifying strip off her daughter, according to onlookers Evangelista “was laughing fit to bust”.
F: Football. In 1994 the ready-to-wear collections in Milan fell during the World Cup football tournament. While other designers turned at the emptiness of their post-show soirees, invitees having adjourned to the nearest TV, Versace employed a clever ruse to ensure his glamorous party was full. He had a huge video screen erected on one side of the dance floor at his party so that revellers could catch the latest scores.
G: Graduation. As a teenagers, Andrew Cunanan attended the top-flight Bishop’s School in La Jolla, a suburb of San Diego. He graduated in 1987. The year book records his election by his classmates as the student “most likely not to be forgotten”.
H: Home from Home. Despite their many fabulous palazzos around the world, there are times when the Versace family find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. One such occasion occurred in Paris in July 1997, shortly before Versace’s death. Donatella was overseeing the creation of a new advertising campaign by Mario Testino. Two studios were hired. Before shooting could begin in the first studio, a truckload of Versace furniture, rugs and objects d’art had to be carried up the stairs and arranged in the second so as to create a luxurious and relaxing home-from-home for Donatella.
I: Ippoliti. In his book Signatures, Versace tried to trace the origins of his approach to design. “Perhaps it was in my mother’s dressmaker’s shop when she tried a black dress on Mrs Ippoliti. A black dress is my earliest memory.” he wrote. “In reality, that fitting has never ended.”
J: Jacobs: Versace always kept his eye on young designers, not simply as potential rivals, but also as possible protégés. When Marc Jacobs stopped designing for the Perry Ellis label in New York and launched his own line, Versace made a point of attending his first show. It was a rare honour and a major boost for a fashion fledgling.
K: Kitsch. Versace’s love of kitsch was central to his design philosphy. It’s what separates him from his great rival, Armani. Only a man with a sophisticated appreciation of good bad taste could have created outfits that outrageously mixed mock leopard, zobra and crocodile all at once, or fashioned a beaded catsuit from multiple Andy Warhol-esque Marilyn Monroe faces.
L: Lloyds of London. Versace’s life was insured for a reported £13 million under a “key man” policy at Lloyds of London. According to Charles Boyd, underwriter with the Kiln agency (the company heading the underwriters taking on the risk), the policy had been in place for “several years and would probably cover murder”.
M: Migliavacca. Seventy-seven year-old Monsignor Luciano Migliavacca conducted the memorial mass for Gianni Versace in the Duomo in Milan. When informed by the Versace family that Sting and Elton John were to sign the twenty-third Psalm during the service, the Monsignor refused to allow it, unless they auditioned for him first. “Certainly, I knew their names, but it is necessary to be sure their voices were worthy of a solemn celebration of the mass.” Migliavacca explained. Elton and Sting gave a fifteen-minute private and unaccompanied performance of The Lord is My Shepherd for the Monsignor. “They weren’t perfect, but I’d have them back.” Migliavacca said after the service.
N: Newscafé. Versace was a creature of habit. When in Miami, he liked to go out every morning and walk the few blocks to the Newscafé, and buy a magazine and coffee. Usually, he approached from the same direction, but Newscafé manageress Stephanie Vanover told Time magazine that one the day of his murder Versace “walked past the entrance, circled back round, then went in. It’s almost as if he knew he was being followed.”
O: Orange. Versace’s home town of Reggio de Calabria has few links with the world of international fashion. But the plains to the north of the city are the only place in the world where Bergamot oranges are grown. Still squeezed by hand, the distilled essence is an essential ingredient in luxury perfumes, including those produced for Versace SpA.
P: Palazzi. Doreta Palazzi was one of Versace’s first models. She later became a friend and neighbour of Versace in Miami. Palazzi told British newspaper the Guardian that the last time she saw the designer, he did not look well. According to Palazzi, Versace told her, “I don’t want to die, I want to live.”
Q: Queens. In the book Rock & Royalty produced by the Versace organization, Elton John writes: “Some people are born royal. Others become Queens all on their own.”
R: Roses. Along with freesias, roses were Versace’s favourite flowers. Milan’s Catholic Cathedral was dressed with red and white roses, set with palm fronds and trailing ivy, for the memorial mass. On the day of the service, a pair of vases with more roses sat next to the casket bearing Versace’s ashes in his Milan home.
S: Springsteen. One of the earliest pop stars to be dressed by Versace, Bruce Springsteen became a close friend. When, in 1985, Springsteen married Julianne Phillips, Versace provided a suitably romantic setting for the honeymoon. He loaned them the Villa Fontanelle on Lake Como. Sadly, Mr and Mrs Springsteen are no longer together.
T: Tuna. Miami sandwich shop worker, G. Kenneth Brown, told Time magazine that four days before Versace’s murder Andrew Cunanan came into his shop for a tuna sub sandwich. Recognizing him, Brown went into the kitchen and dialled 911. Unfortunately, another member of staff took Cunanan’s $4.12, and, before police could reach the shop, Cunanan disappeared. When Brown learned of the designer’s murder, he said “I wanted to throw up. I was thinking, if only they had caught him, Versace might still be alive.”
U: Underpants. The Versace empire was built upon riotously luxurious clothing. However, in his book, Men Without Ties, Gianni wrote “A tuxedo alone cannot make you elegant, while even a pair of underpants can be worn with style.”
V: Vreeland. Gianni Versace once recounted the tale of a visit that he and Donatella made to the all-pink home of legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. On meeting Donatella (who was then only twenty), Vreeland exclaimed, “We have the same initials, perhaps, some day you too will work in fashion.” Donatella subsequently sent Ms Vreeland some leather jeans and shirts that Gianni had designed. Vreeland mailed back snaps of herself wearing them. Gianni commented “One must never believe that an older woman cannot wear certain things.”
W: Wintour. Anna Wintour, sunglassed editor of Vogue, is said to have suffered a fashion crisis on her way to attend Versace’s memorial service in Milan. Her luggage failed to arrive at Linate airport. Only a hurried phone call to the Versace boutique averted disaster. A suitable sombre outfit was dispatched to Ms Wintour’s hotel.
X: InXs. Before Michael Hutchence so cruelly dumped Helena Christensen for the more mature charms of Mrs Bob Geldof (aka Paula Yates), the InXs frontman was a regular fixture at Versace fashion shows. So devoted was he to his Supermodel girlfriend that he would be happy to loiter backstage for hours beforehand. Versace returned the favour by giving him a front row seat and playing his current hit during the show, the latter making Michael squirm ever so slightly.
Y: Yoga. Madonna was a neighbour of Versace’s in Miami and a frequent visitor to his home. The last time she saw him, the pair discussed alternative therapies, Madonna recommending her yoga teacher. “I could totally imagine this extravagant Calabrian with a twinkle in his eye in the Lotus position”, she wrote in Time magazine.
Z: Zip. Diana, Princess of Wales, never looked more lovely than when she was wearing Versace. His genius was in making the most of her voluptuous curves, perhaps, most famously when she sat next to Henry Kissinger at a dinner in New York and much comment was made on the appearance of her cleavage. This Gianni accomplished with an ingenious double-zip arrangement incorporated into Diana’s evening gown. Inside many Atelier Versace dresses, there is a lining which is fitted tightly to the body. This lifts and holds – Wonderbra-style – allowing the dress proper to merely float on top.
Source / photo source: Gianni Versace: Fashion's Last Emperor by Lowri Turner, Gianni Versace photographed by Jean-Marie Perier for Vogue report, Abbey Lee Kershaw in Versace Yellow Diamond perfume campaign (photography: Mario Testino, styling: Joe McKenna), Jon Bon Jovi photographed by Richard Avedon for Versace ad campaign, Diana Vreeland via vogue.co.uk, Madonna photographed by Mario Testino for Versace 1995 campaign