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As Donatella Versace is named Fashion Icon, she shares how her late brother shaped her career

The British Fashion Council has today revealed that Donatella Versace will receive the Fashion Icon Award on Monday night, at The Fashion Awards 2017.

The British Fashion Council has today revealed that Donatella Versace will receive the Fashion Icon Award on Monday night, at The Fashion Awards 2017. Here, the designer reveals how her career got started, with a little help from her brother Gianni...

"A few years after I graduated from university Gianni brought me to Milan. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I needed space to think about my future, and I remember him telling me to take my time and that he had a lot of things for me to do. He liked to consult me constantly, and wanted me to live in his apartment so that he could have me with him all the time. 

‘What do you think about this?’ ‘What do you think about that?’ He was always asking me questions because he wanted to have a female perspective. So when he sketched a dress, I would tell him, ‘Gianni, inside that dress there will be a real woman, so proportions and fit are important.’ 

Back then I did not have one specific role – I had 100 different ones. From muse to provocateur. It was crazy! Gianni never stopped. We would have an idea and then after two hours he felt it was already old and we would have to start all over again. But that’s how we were able to break all the rules, to push ourselves forward. We would experiment endlessly with cuts, fits and embroideries to get to the right result. 

Donatella Versace and her cast of supermodel friends pay tribute to Gianni Versace on the catwalk in September 2017

Today you cannot do that. Back then there was only the fashion show. No pre-collection, no marketing, no merchandising… those are things that only became important later on. In those days it was all about that one moment and you had to have the right idea on the catwalk. 

Carla Bruni and Naomi Campbell pose with designer Gianni Versace in 1992 

I did not have the time to think about how my career was going to pan out. I was travelling and bringing back ideas to Gianni, working with him, and little by little I started to be more and more involved in the company without even noticing it, which was Gianni’s plan from the beginning. But that meant I didn’t have time to do anything else. All I cared about was Versace, and that my brother was honoured at a time when people didn’t dare to make bold choices. He always stood out from the crowd, he was unique, but it was only with time that his genius was truly recognised. 

When I look at this picture, I feel an affinity. We often disagreed – every day. Our relationship was based on a conflict of ideas. But what I learnt from Gianni was to never give up, and always to push myself." 

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