Donatella! The Powerful Woman Behind the Versace Brand

“If you were not running Versace, how would you be spending your time?”
“Having a nervous breakdown probably.”
-73 Questions with Donatella, Vogue

Watching Penelope Cruz play a delectable Donatella Versace on American Crime Story renews my interest in this fixture in the fashion scene. One of the sartorial greats, WSJ calls her, “an icon of survival, beloved as much for her vulnerability as for her pluckiness.”

I’m a fan of strong women in business, and while I’ve always known who she was, I didn’t know much about her work.

Rising out of tragedy, Donatella has kept her family’s fashion house relevant for 20 years. It’s a brand best known for a very distinctive point of view — loud prints, gold, Italia baby. But Donatella has made some smart fashion and public relations moves, especially with the help of celebrities.

Even though it’s not the biggest fashion house, Versace gowns grace the red carpet every season, and some of the most notable dresses in red carpet history have been Versace. Think J.Lo. in that plunging green gown (after seeing Donatella wearing it) and Angelina in black velvet showcasing her now infamous right leg.

She shines at understanding her client. “We know our insecurities” she told the New York Times. “Male designers work for an ideal woman; female designers work for real women.”

And she’s made a smart move towards more day clothes. She said, “I figured the day clothes are more important than the evening clothes. Because most of the day you are wearing ‘normal’ clothes, not long evening dresses!”

In a recent segment of Vogue’s 73 Questions, Donatella talks about the importance of technology and social media. And that the brand is pronounced Versach-eh, not Versach-ee. When asked what it means to be a woman in 2018, she says: “It means to be aware of what’s happening in the world and do something about it.”

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Nonsense

Photo by Kristin Vogt.

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. – Dr. Suess

Bringing the DeLorean of the Eighties Back to Future

Photo Credit: delorean.com

“The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” Doc Brown

This futuristic classic of the eighties will always have a place in our hearts. The DeLorean DMC-12 is synonymous with the Back to the Future series, popping up recently as one owner received a speeding ticket for going 88 mph. (Where was Doc Brown on that one?)

The DeLorean has a striking silhouette with its gullwing doors and spartan stainless steel finish. Despite its looks, at 130 horsepower, it plodded its way up to 60mph in 10.5 seconds and had generally poor performance. Fittingly, in one episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld and Patton Oswald find themselves having to take an Uber after their DeLorean breaks down.

John DeLorean, himself, was a heavy hitter in the automotive industry — responsible for one of the original muscle cars — the 1964 Pontiac GTO. He has been described as a “flamboyant automobile industrialist” and the father of the glamour car. In 1975, he started the DeLorean Motor Company with the dream of creating an affordable sports car.

The DeLorean DMC-12 was born in January 1981 in a Northern Ireland factory just outside of Belfast. It came in five-speed manual or three-speed automatic. Despite investments from the likes of Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis, Jr., and the British government, the company was short lived, filling for bankruptcy in 1982, leaving a legacy of just 9,000 cars ever produced.

In 1995, a new privately held DeLorean Motor Company would surface, with Liverpool-born mechanic Stephen Wynne at the helm. His company continues to service and restore those DeLoreans that remain today.

He even has plans to bring back a small number of these cars for 2017.

Wynne told CNBC, “My dream with DeLorean is to really do the car some justice, and make it, not the car it should have been, because it was that, but the car it could have been.”

Your Idyllic Summer in New England with KJP and Camp Foxhawk

Only recently have I stumbled across the magical world created by Kiel James Patrick and his wife Sarah Vickers, a wormhole that started by following their golden retriever Bennie on Instagram.

At once I was hooked, and sucked into a world of New England beaches, classic cars and historic mansions, dripping in Americana.

But seriously, who is this couple and how can I have their life? (They had their wedding at Christmas tree farm for goodness sake!)

For Kiel and Sarah, the journey began by selling rope bracelets out of Kiel’s parent’s garage, and has since turned into a full fledged clothing brand, online and in stores, as well as a slew of partnerships with other brands like Kate Spade and Brooks Brothers.

In the crowded and competitive market of fashion, a keen understanding of social media is key. Kiel told Huffington Post, “The strongest marketing has always been word of mouth, or trusting a friend’s advice and opinion on what they like to wear or eat. Everyone on our team and in our factory has their own fan base and you’re buying into his or her lifestyle by wearing the products we’re making. We don’t pay for advertising.”

What sets the KJP brand apart is accessibility. In a New York Times article, children’s clothing designer Noelle Daly said, “You can envision having a clambake on the beach with them. They’re romancing you with each photo.”

Even their internship program is unique, and billed as Camp Foxhawk Adventure School, which promises “sailing trips, polo matches, bonfires on the beach, tennis, canoeing, classic cars, waterskiing, soirees… the quintessential New England summer of a lifetime.” Interns will learn about “American-made manufacturing, retail, social media marketing, brand photography, and product development.” Town and Country has even recapped previous summers at the camp.

I’m hooked, though perhaps a few years too far into my professional career to apply. 😉

Getaway: Nevis

Nevis_FourSeasons

Photo from Four Seasons Nevis West Indies.

Tucked away in the northern part of the West Indies, Nevis (pronounced “nay-vis”), is a quick water-taxi ride from St. Kitts. At just thirty six square miles in size, it’s quite a small island, but perhaps the best place to disappear for a few days.

The ferry from St. Kitts will drop you in Nevis’ tiny capital, Charlestown. Part of the appeal for travelers is that the Nevisians have been able to keep the island off the radar. The beautiful, quiet beaches are one of the main attractions: a favorite is Pinney’s Beach. There’s horseback riding at the Equestrian Centre, climbing Nevis Peak (the volcano at the center of the island) or wandering around the Botanical Gardens.

Nevis also has a unique tie to U.S. history, as the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. Lin Miranda Manuel spent time in Nevis to get inspiration for the Broadway hit Hamilton. To get your own fix of history, visit the Alexander Hamilton House.

Weather-wise, temps hover around 80 degrees year-round, but keep in mind that July to November is the island’s rainiest season.

For those headed to Nevis this summer, the Culturama Festival begins on July 21 and runs through August 2. Culturama celebrates the local Nevisian traditional customs and hopes to spread awareness of the island’s cultural heritage. Carnival is the biggest yearly event on the neighboring island of St. Kitts, starting in mid-December.

The favored hotels to stay, according to TripAdvisor, include the Nisbet Plantation Club, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis and the Montpelier Plantation. If it so happens you’re looking to buy, a billionaire car magnate also recently put his home, the Seagrape, up for sale for a cool $7.2 million. Perks? Automatic citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Abscond away!