“Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way to live.” —Gianni Versace
In the past week or so I have been watching American Crime Story (S02) otherwise titled The Assassination of Gianni Versace. So it was rather a foregone conclusion that I would segue this with a quote from the late Italian designer. It has been 21 years (already!) since the infamous tragedy, and I still recall 1997 as one of the saddest years in the fashion world (to be shortly followed by Princess Diana’s untimely death). Coming across one of the most iconic fashion quotes uttered by important people in the fashion industry (read this ‘article‘ by Harper’s Bazaar if interested), I could not help but think about the impact of such figures, not because of their clothes, but mostly because of their legacy. LEGACY – what a word! So simple yet so powerful. What does it mean to leave a legacy behind? Very often the most we can aspire to in terms of legacy is to have offspring to carry on our name long after we are gone, but surely we should not be limited to that. Sadly, it is easier said than done when it comes to leaving something so powerful, so life-changing, so permanent, that our physical limitations do not bar us from being remembered.
This year it was announced that the label Gianni Versace was being swallowed up by the designer house of Michael Kors (much to the chagrin of many people), whose handbags were sought after among many so-called fashionistas in Malta for a period of time. What happens to the legacy of the murdered designer: does it remain intact, or is it transmogrified until it is erased? Now while it is true that the Versace brand was being threatened by lack of newness (if you look at the recent collections, they are more or less a rehashing of greater ones), it is also the case that whenever someone said Versace, there was that association with glamour albeit on the flamboyant, exuberant scale. Which is why perhaps this season we are seeing a comeback of the exaggerated and the extravagant, played out mostly in high street stores (e.g. the sequinned party dresses). Call it hyperbolic dressing, but maybe, just maybe, a silent nod to the great ones that were. Let us leave it at that, a gesture of goodwill towards a striking personality that Gianni Versace seemed to exude. Celebrate people will, and celebrate they must, perhaps with a healthy dose of nostalgia for a simpler past, forgetfulness of a rather disquieting present, and a somewhat idealistic hope for future legacy.