Versace for All: Donatella Makes A Case For Body Diversity

A highlight of Milan Fashion Week.


by Natalie Hammond |
Updated on

Donatella Versace’s SS21 show was a typically bravura performance - featuring a set strewn with ancient columns (her very own Atlantis) and a day-glo colour palette that dialled the feel-good factor to 10 - but this time reflected how much the fashion industry has changed in these past six months. But instead of doom and gloom, or an apocalyptic reflection of the world still in the grips of a pandemic, it showed the positive side of this year’s reckoning with a simple message: all body types are welcome and, more importantly, should be celebrated.

In a season that’s seen the return of Ashley Graham, who walked in Fendi and Etro, the catwalks finally seem to be featuring women whose bodies represent a greater range of shapes and sizes. The women on the catwalk had boobs and bottoms, not only making them more relatable to potential customers but making the clothes, especially clothes as sexy as Versace’s, look even more desirable.

Jill Kortleave - the Dutch model who’s had a jam-packed season, also walking in Fendi, Etro and Coperni (at Paris Fashion Week) - was dressed in the va-va-voom combination of rainbow-striped shirt tied just below the bust and a low-slung slip skirt. Posting after the show, she called the fact that three curve models were cast as ‘an iconic moment’, shouting out to her fellow models, Alva Claire and Precious Lee: ‘This is such an historical moment and I can’t believe it actually happened. I’m still shaking. I’m so so so proud of us @alvaclaire @preciousleexoxo. It’s so unbelievable to work for brands I always dreamt of working for. I hope that we open the doors for a new generation with the same dreams but who never saw themselves in the magazines or the commercials.’

New York-based Alva Claire, wearing a starfish-emblazoned slip dress and stacked neon platforms, echoed her sentiments entirely - ‘I’m so emotional writing this, to walk for the iconic Versace has always been a huge dream of mine!! I am so proud of @preciousleexoxo @jilla.tequila and myself we made history with this and I will never forget how I feel right now! This moment is for all of us!!!’ - while Precious Lee, who’s also based in New York, and has graced the cover of Vogue Italia - thanked Versace for ‘raising the bar’. ‘Queen @donatella_versace your support and love right now for me is just magical. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for raising the bar. I know how much this means and I will always cherish it. Not one little Black girl can say they can’t because we can, we always could and when you stay true, you will.’


SEE: The Highlights From Milan Fashion Week SS21

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CREDIT: Valentino


As one of the handful who decided to show IRL, Valentino's show, the finale of Milan Fashion Week, reminded us of the 'old normal'. But while the setting (Milan instead of Paris), the colours and the gowns were as breath-taking as ever, the collection did reflect what's happening the world - and how it's affecting our clothes. Boot-leg jeans were peppered throughout - paired with a blazer and Rockstud pumps, or a billowing sheer blouse - and were the result of an unlikely collaboration: Valentino and Levi's. For SS21, Piccioli reworked the denim brand's classic 517 - a boot-leg cut that has been waiting in the wings and is, now, ripe for a comeback. Hopefully it won't be too long until ball gowns are back on the menu. In the meantime, Valentino x Levi's seems like a brilliant alternative.

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CREDIT: Versace


Versace also decided to show in real life, but its guest list was made up entirely of its own team, everyone else had to watch the live-stream. The collection was inspired by the aquatic, with models walking through a set of crumbling ruins, Donatella Versace's very own Atlantis.

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CREDIT: Moschino


Moschino's Jeremy Scott took the idea of social distancing incredibly seriously, staging a puppet show, complete with a string-operated front row. With fashion brands turning to the medium of video more and more, this stood out as something original and, more importantly, fun.

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This seasons collection focuses on craft, colour, and artistry. 'A refreshing palette of blues, vivid emerald and soft rose enhances this new attitude, along with shades of sand, cream, and forest green.'

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Proud of its Italian DNA, this season Etro explores an eternally charming Riviera style. 'Fresh, relaxed, spontaneous,' the collection visits 'the alluring vibe of an endless Italian summer.' A nautical theme runs throughout 'with rope motifs, marine chains, anchors, seashells, summer stripes and sailboats. '

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CREDIT: Armani

Emporio Armani

Emporio Armani hosted a digital show this season, where the collection echoed its architectural surroundings, 'creating a dialogue that shares the same tone'. We saw feather-light materials as well as fresh and neutral hues. However, the evening wardrobe turned dark, mysterious and luminescent – like this finale look.

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CREDIT: Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana's SS21 collection was dedicated to patchwork, with look after look that was pieced together from jewel-like squares of fabric. But this wasn't just patchwork in the literal sense, but the patchwork of cultures in Sicily. 'Given our long experience designing and being inspired by Sicily, we wanted to tell of all that you can find on an island like this, the different cultures that dominated it, from the Spanish to the Arabs, from the Normans to the French,' says Domenico Dolce in the press release. 'We wanted to tell of all that you can find in a city like Palermo, like Catania, like Syracuse, like Agrigento, putting it together in a garment. Creating these patchworks, these combinations of fabrics, of atmospheres, of colours, of different qualities of brocade, from poplin to georgette to chiffon,' he continues.

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Alberta Ferretti

Alberta Ferretti's outdoor catwalk, which snaked around a covered courtyard that was green with ivy plants, catered for a reduced number of guests, each sitting on carefully spread square blocks to enforce social distancing. The show itself, however, was remarkably similar to the 'old normal', with a spring-facing collection that saw models wearing shells around their necks, gladiator sandals on their feet and clothes in beachy shades of lemon, coral and terracotta.

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For her last collection before man-of-the-hour Kim Jones's arrival, Silvia Venturini Fendi took inspiration from her family, the generations reunited in Rome, and the simple act of watching the world go by at a window. The catwalk looked rather like a living room, albeit a very large and very long one, with white curtains wafting either side that brought to mind open windows, and undulating sofas where guests were spaced evenly apart as opposed to being squashed together. Fendi certainly managed to pull in the big guns, with Yasmin Le Bon, Ashley Graham, Eva Herzigova, Paloma Elsesser, Imaan Hammam and Edie Campbell all present and correct for what was most likely their first show of fashion month. The clothes were typically dolce vita in style, with an open-necked leather coat (on Le Bon), a trumpet-sleeve skirt suit (on Herzigova) and a sexily sheer rib knit (on Hammam). While we wait, and imagine, what Fendi + Jones might equal, shoppers will find plenty of wantable clothes to keep them satisfied next spring.

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