On the third day of Milan Fashion Week, past and present merged at Donatella Versace's joyous, celebratory, healing runway tribute Friday to her brother Gianni Versace, 20 years after his slaying in Miami. And it culminated with her own reckoning with how she has born the weight of her brother's creative legacy.
The show brought together the supermodels that Gianni Versace helped create — Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen — and the new generation of celebrity models that Donatella Versace says is the first in decades to exude the requisite confidence: Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and now Kaia Gerber, Crawford's daughter.
Donatella feted her brother as a designer who empowered woman, a legacy that she has sought to maintain. "This show is for him, from beginning to end," she told reporters backstage.
Ms. Versace said she went back into the archives for the first time since her brother's death and pulled out 12 prints that she reproduced for this tribute collection, including Andy Warhol, Vogue and My Friend Elton from 1991, and Wild Baroque, Anomalies and Native American from 1992.
"Only after 20 years could I do that, even if the pain is the same," Donatella said. But the silhouette was all Donatella, slim and empowering, in recognition of the shift in tastes over the years. Long gone are the big shoulders of the late 1990s. There were belted trenches, tight bodice mini-dresses with cropped jean jackets, sleek evening sheaths and fuller skirts worn with denim tops. There were mini-skirted suits and ruched dresses in pastel pink, blue and green.
And there were monochrome leggings inspired by the 1990s and worn with matching color jackets. Heels were high and the stride was strong. "I feel like I did what I had to do. I feel I can share my memories and my journey. I am happy I did it," she said.
Going back into the archives also provided a window into Donatella's own journey, after being thrust unexpectedly and tragically into the creative role. "I asked why I took so long to find my way," she said. "The first few years I wasn't sure of myself. I made mistakes. But you learn from your mistakes."
Gianni's supermodels - who strutted to the late George Michael's "Freedom" - wore liquidy dresses in metal mesh inspired from Gianni's fall-winter 1994 collection. They stood in a solemn tableau, then joined Donatella for a tribute lap down the runway. Ms. Versace said they were all staying on the same hallway and all visiting each other like long-lost girlfriends. "It is the same atmosphere, the same competitions of who wants to be in the center," Donatella said.