Gianni Versace, the name synonymous with opulence, glamour, and cutting-edge fashion, left an indelible mark on the world of fashion before his untimely death in 1997. With his flamboyant designs and bold use of color and prints, the Italian designer redefined luxury fashion and shaped the fashion landscape of the 80s and 90s. His eponymous brand, Versace, continues to be one of the leading fashion houses in the world, upholding his extraordinary vision. But beyond his celebrated career and the legendary status he achieved, there’s much more to know about this iconic fashion designer. Here are ten lesser-known facts about Gianni Versace that reveal a deeper understanding of the man behind the iconic Medusa logo.

1. Early Exposure to Fashion

Born in Reggio di Calabria, Italy, in 1946, Gianni Versace was exposed to fashion at a young age through his mother’s dressmaking business. His mother, Francesca, was an established seamstress who owned a small boutique, and it was here that Versace learned about the craftsmanship behind clothing.

In this creative environment, Versace would often help his mother find precious materials and draw designs, honing his fashion sensibility. These early experiences instilled in him an understanding and passion for fashion, laying the groundwork for his future success as a fashion designer.

2. Started as a Freelancer

Before establishing his own fashion house, Versace worked as a freelance designer. After moving to Milan at the age of 25, he worked for several Italian labels such as Genny, Complice, and Callaghan, contributing to their ready-to-wear collections.

These early years in Milan were crucial in shaping Versace’s design philosophy. Working with various brands allowed him to experiment with different styles and broaden his design repertoire. His unique and eclectic style gradually earned him recognition in the Italian fashion scene.

3. Love for Theatre and Ballet

Versace had a deep appreciation for the performing arts, particularly theatre and ballet. His love for these art forms significantly influenced his design aesthetic, known for its dramatic, flamboyant style. He often incorporated elements from theatrical costumes into his designs, creating a unique blend of fashion and performance art.

In the 1980s, Versace began designing costumes for the theatre and ballet. He collaborated with renowned choreographers such as Maurice Béjart and William Forsythe, further cementing his relationship with the performing arts. These experiences enriched his design vocabulary and brought a theatrical flair to his fashion collections.

4. Incorporation of Art History in His Designs

Versace had a profound interest in art history, an influence that was often reflected in his designs. He admired classical Greek and Roman art, and his collections frequently incorporated elements from these periods, from Greek key patterns to Baroque prints.

Moreover, Versace was known for his creative use of pop art in his designs. One of his most iconic creations is the Marilyn Monroe print dress, which supermodel Claudia Schiffer wore on the runway. These influences showcase Versace’s ability to merge the worlds of fashion and art, creating designs that were both stylish and culturally rich.

5. Pioneered the Supermodel Era

Versace played a significant role in the rise of the supermodel era in the 1990s. He was among the first designers to recognize the power of celebrity in promoting fashion. He regularly cast top models like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Linda Evangelista, turning them into household names.

Versace’s 1991 runway show, where he had four of the biggest supermodels of the time walk down the runway lip-syncing to George Michael’s “Freedom! ’90,” is considered a defining moment in fashion history. This moment encapsulated Versace’s understanding of the evolving fashion landscape and his ability to shape pop culture trends.

6. Openness About His Sexuality

In an era when homosexuality was often kept private, especially among public figures, Versace was open about his sexuality. He publicly announced his long-term relationship with his partner, Antonio D’Amico, a model and fashion designer.

Versace’s openness about his sexuality was a significant moment in the fashion industry, as it challenged the norms of the time. His candidness about his personal life reflected his belief in authenticity, both in his designs and his personal life.

7. Created the Safety Pin Dress

Versace was known for his ability to transform mundane objects into high-fashion elements. One of his most iconic creations is the “safety pin” dress, which Elizabeth Hurley wore to the premiere of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” in 1994. The dress, held together by oversized gold safety pins, caused a media sensation and became one of the most iconic dresses of the 90s.

The safety pin dress demonstrated Versace’s creativity and his knack for creating provocative, headline-making fashion. His designs often blurred the lines between fashion and art, showcasing his talent for creating memorable fashion moments.

8. Versace’s Home is Now a Luxury Hotel

Gianni Versace lived in a lavish mansion on Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive, known as Casa Casuarina. Following his tragic death in 1997, the house was bought and converted into a luxury hotel. Today, The Villa Casa Casuarina stands as a testament to Versace’s love for opulence and grandeur.

The hotel preserves many of the original elements from Versace’s time, including the mosaic garden, the ornate furnishings, and the iconic gold-lined swimming pool. It serves as a living tribute to Versace’s extravagant lifestyle and his unique aesthetic.

9. Contributions to Music Industry

Versace’s influence extended beyond the fashion world and into the music industry. He was a popular designer among musicians and often designed costumes for performers. Notably, he created the iconic stage outfits for Elton John’s 1988 world tour.

Versace also had a significant impact on the visual aesthetics of the music industry. His bold, vibrant designs often featured in music videos and album covers, influencing the visual language of pop culture. His contributions to the music industry highlight Versace’s broad cultural influence and his status as a pop culture icon.

10. Versace’s Legacy Continues

After Versace’s tragic death, his sister Donatella Versace took over the reins of the Versace brand. Despite initial challenges, Donatella has successfully continued her brother’s legacy, keeping the Versace brand at the forefront of the global fashion industry.

Today, Versace continues to be a symbol of Italian luxury and opulence, and its collections remain true to Gianni Versace’s original vision of glamorous, confident, and provocative designs. The enduring success of the Versace brand serves as a testament to Gianni Versace’s exceptional talent and his lasting impact on the world of fashion.