Review: Versace’s twist on grunge has color, character and safety pins galore

Looks from the fall and winter 2019 Versace women’s collection, presented on Feb. 22 during Milan Fashion Week.

If Moschino’s Thursday-night runway show here was an homage to the game-show genre, then Versace’s, which wrapped the Friday slate of shows, was more like a “Portlandia” sketch in which a high-end Italian label blows into the Pacific Northwest, co-opts its grungy thrift-store style, and turns an aesthetic rooted in anti-consumerism into a best-selling collection of luxury clothes.

The only difference is that in the case of Versace’s grunge-themed fall and winter 2019 collection, the “Portlandia” parody was wholly unintentional.

Starting with a giant safety pin stuck in the runway, ending with supermodel Stephanie Seymour returning to the catwalk (making for the second high-profile call-back to the ’90s catwalk in as many days thanks to Max Mara) and accompanied by Nirvana on the soundtrack, the runway show was filled with Versace’s go-for-baroque take on secondhand style in a color palette that popped with lime greens, acid yellows and bubblegum pink.

There were slouchy cashmere sweaters with ragged hems, one-shouldered dresses were sliced (some vertically from clavicle to waist, others angling horizontally across the belt line) and held together with Versace-logo safety pins, bondage straps were crafted out of silk and mixed with colorful tweeds or layered over turtlenecks, and lace-edged slip dresses were worn under motorcycle jackets.


One of the standout prints was a Barocco-style V (that at first glance could be mistaken for a gussied up barbed-wire pattern) that appeared on a handful of pieces including silk skirts, chunky double-breasted menswear-inspired blazers and coats with faux-fur trimmed collars.

Even the ’90s version of Donatella Versace popped up on the runway — sort of — by way of a Richard Avedon photo (taken Feb. 3, 1995, in the photographer’s New York studio, according to the post-show notes) that was printed on T-shirts.

Although most of the collection seemed geared toward a very specific customer (we’d love to see that Venn diagram), the three looks that closed the show had a more universal appeal: black, body-con dresses with gold chains and buckle hardware dialed down to the bare minimum; they wouldn’t look out of place on the Hollywood red carpet — particularly Seymour’s black crystal mesh gown.


The show also introduced something else destined to have wider appeal: a new handbag line. Easily identifiable by the Barocco V hardware, it’s called the Virtus, named after the Roman deity that symbolizes strength, courage and character.

Appropriate, since — love it or hate it — the one thing this runway collection certainly did not lack was character.

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