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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