Gianni Versace pored over Greek mythology to find inspiration for his brand’s logo: Medusa and her snakes. It is said that Medusa was overly braggadocious about her beauty and her hair. And so out of punishment, or perhaps jealousy, a goddess transformed her seductive self into a nest of snakes that would turn anyone who crossed her into stone. And yet Versace’s founder still chose to make her his emblem, even in his personal life. Medusa guarded the gates of his home, marked his flower pots, became a unique stamp of “Versace”-ness… But how could he have taken inspiration from a character with such negative connotations as his brand’s logo? Perhaps it is because she is in every aspect a representation of the Versace woman. A woman so beautiful, so imposing, that all who look back upon her in passing will be petrified with jealousy. This woman uses her beauty and impertinence to provoke; she is the one we see, the one we look at. She holds the power in her hands to damn you in the blink of an eye. Medusa is the definition of Versace and its very essence. Mixtures of fabrics, colors, and muses… Even when she doesn’t show up, her spirit is still there.
According to the founder, Medusa incarnates fatal passion. Even today under the direction of Donatella, Medusa continues to grace Versace’s creations. She adorns the flask of the brand’s eponymous perfume, sunglasses collections, jewelry, leathergoods, stronger than ever. And so its only natural that her beauty and provocation can be found in the brand’s powerful and decadent style. Often made of gold so we can see her, so she can be showed off… so we desire her. As Anna Wintour once said, “Versace has always been the mistress to Armani’s wife. We’re often jealous of the mistress.” Many eras have served as sources of inspiration for fashion designers, and the height of the Roman era continues to radiate around the world through Versace’s style. Proof that one empire can inspire another. And so, while fashions come and go with their era, there is one that never left the Versace universe: Antiquity. Gianni Versace was long inspired by these centuries that left such a timeless mark on history, on architecture, and within art itself.
But, Roman or Greek, these ancient inspirations are an integral part of Versace’s DNA, and this is incarnated in the particular style we attribute to them. The brand’s logo is the writing on the wall: Versace is synonymous with Antiquity. Sometimes, Medusa is accompanied or leaves room for the greca motifs that once adorned Athenian palaces. This symbol of infinity is also a recurrent motif in Versace’s ready-to-wear styles. The brand also borrowed a pronounced taste for nudity from this civilization. In their ad campaigns, they don’t hesitate to take inspiration from any and every work of art. And so, contemporary goddesses are surrounded by young Adonises and play Venus while decked out in Versace. Even 17 years after Gianni’s death, his inspirations remain: gladiator skirts, belts, and togas continue to strut down the catwalk. And when it’s not incandescent white, it’s gildings with geometric shapes that bring their light to the creations, going from long fluid dresses to leather skirts and every piece in the male wardrobe in between. With Spartan sandals on their feet, these gladiators of Fashion Week bear witness to the infinity of an empire that continues to exist through the Italian spirit.
Versace’s Medusa: Key dates
1961 : Gianni Versace works in his mother’s sartorial atelier in Reggio Calabria. The city has been a Greek colony and a Roman town and the Medusa is a recurring symbol. He probably discovers it while playing with his siblings on an old Roman mosaic.
1980s : In front of his house in Milan Gianni Versace mentions a bas-relief portraying the Gorgon. He will choose it as a symbol of his maison and of his whole lifestyle.
1981 : To those who criticize the choice of Medusa Gianni replies: “That the Gorgon is just like his woman: aggressive and fatal, able to seduce you with a glance”.
1984 : Versace designs the costumes for the ballet Dionysos at Alla Scala theatre in Milan. References to the Grecian culture are everywhere.
1990s : The ‘Supermodel Phenomenon’ is born when Versace sends all the top models down the catwalk for his 1991/1992 collections for the Autumn/Winter season. They all wear Medusa or have an haircut inspired to the Gorgon.
1991 : The legendary Baroque collection is born: Medusa is a key symbol and even the supermodels are dressed like Grecian goddesses
1991 – 1992 : Versace designs the famous printed foulard with four Medusa faces. Even the legendary ready-to-wear pop-art collection is born under the sign of the Gorgon
1991-1992 : The Gorgon dominates also in menswear: male models are like Grecian Gods and Medusa is their mistress
1990s : Medusa becomes a “must” of Versace. From haute couture to ready-to-wear the iconic symbol expands to each accessory, including watches, belts, bags, tableware, eyewear, jewels, necklaces, footwear.
1995 : Madonna becomes testimonial for Gianni Versace: even the pop star is seduced by the Gorgon.
1993 – 1997 : Times are changing but the Medusa is still there. Each new collection – from the one in fetish–leather to the one with new materials – or even some evergreen like the Oroton dress often display the Gorgon. The symbol will be present in Versace’s last catwalks too, right before his tragic death.
2000s : The new millennium brings new trends. Under the guide of Donatella Versace the Medusa is less present on the dresses but even more present on the accessories.
2010s : Globalization revamps the iconic symbol of Medusa. The Gorgon is always present in some way during the catwalks and many international stars, like Lady Gaga in 2014, are seduced by her glance.
2017 : 20 years after the tragic death of Gianni Versace all his historical supermodels and dresses are reunited for a huge catwalk in Milan under the sign of the Gorgon.