Fashion, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column 17/11/11: Versace for H&M

Another year has almost passed, and we all know what that means. I’m not referring to the inevitable feeling of time passing or the inexorability of our impending deaths. Nor, come to think of it, am I talking about the new John Lewis ad, which may as well be the same thing.

November is slowly coming to pass as the marker for the next big high street collaboration. Last year it was Lanvin. This year it’s Versace.

Unlike last year’s collaboration, it seems like a lot more time and thought has gone into the design and presentation of the collection this year (forgive me, Alber Elbaz).

Donatella Versace has delved deep into the Versace archives and emerged with masses of studs, buckles, strapping, fringe, leather, palm trees, lovehearts and garish sunsets than can be seen at an all day S&M rave on Ipanema beach.

The hype is deserved. The collection is dense, in terms of both design and execution. Donatella has rolled out womenswear, menswear accessories and homeware. The launch party in New York included performances by Prince and Nicki Minaj as models dressed like Donatella/Axel Rose hybrids stalked down the catwalk in all the traditional Versace tropes; bondage, cutouts, metal hardware, self-assured sexiness and pure glee at the unashamed tackiness of it all.

‘Tackiness’ is Versace’s watchword. Not ‘craftsmanship’, not ‘heritage’, definitely not ‘classic’. Versace is tacky. Tacky, tacky, tacky. Tacky like glue that just won’t dry, tacky like a sweaty PVC sofa, blacklighting and a faux-tigerskin rug. So tacky, in fact, that Paul Verhoeven’s so bad-it’s-good classic film Showgirls is practically raining the stuff, along with breast implants and curlicues of acrylic nails.

People must be bonkers for wearing Versace in the first place, yes?

Well, no. Not so much.

The reason that Versace (or any designer-high street collaboration) doesn’t sit well with many people is easily explained. Jane Alexandra Kenny, a blogger and designer explains, ‘Even a simple black coat will always have massive hardware or some detail designed to make the world know that the wearer is really really really ridiculously wealthy’. Without the super-heavy embellishment, it almost loses it’s meaning.

‘It’s like the kind of tacky all other tacky aspires to be. The kind of tacky that only works when it is made of the finest of everything, when the studs are expensive and heavy and firmly secured. The kind of tacky that cannot ever be reproduced on the high street’, says Jane. ‘So, what you get is more like a parody of Versace’.

The world of Versace is already steeped in parody. So, if you make a parody of a parody, what do you get? The magic is inevitably diluted.

As with last year’s collaboration, the faults are the same. Despite bringing fashion to the masses, anyone who wants to buy has to join a queue. A long one. According to the Evening Herald, the euro prices will be at least 38 percent more expensive than sterling. And, after all that, you still feel like trundling down to your local store, the collection may not even be there. It opens today at nine am in three Irish stores; two in Dublin, one in Belfast.

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One thought on “Licentiate Column 17/11/11: Versace for H&M

  1. tara m says:

    Ah great post! Only saw some of the collection but the other half managed to get some things in the belfast store! Hopefully he knows what I like by now..

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