Gianni Versace, (born December 2, 1946, Reggio Calabria, Italy—died July 15, 1997, Miami Beach, Florida, U.S.) Italian fashion designer known for his daring fashions and glamorous lifestyle.
His mother was a dressmaker, and Gianni was raised watching her work on designs in her boutique. After graduating from high school, Versace worked for a short time at his mother’s shop before moving in 1972 to Milan, where he worked for several Italian ateliers, including Genny, Complice, Mario Valentino, and Callaghan. Backed by the Girombellis, an Italian fashion family, Versace established his own company, Gianni Versace SpA, in 1978 and staged his first ready-to-wear show under his own name that same year. His brother, Santo, served as CEO, and his sister, Donatella, was a designer and vice president.
Versace designed throughout the 1980s and ’90s and built a fashion empire by producing ensembles that oozed sensuality and sexuality. His most famous designs included sophisticated bondage gear, polyvinyl chloride baby-doll dresses, and silver-mesh togas. Versace’s detractors considered his flashy designs vulgar. Unfazed by such criticism, Versace staged his seasonal fashion shows like rock concerts at his lavish design headquarters in Milan, with groupies and paparazzi awaiting the arrival of both his celebrity friends, such as Elton John and Madonna, and his loyal models, such as Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell, who were paid such high salaries that the press dubbed them “supermodels.” Versace was credited with turning the fashion world into the high-powered, celebrity-besotted industry it remains to the present day.