It's been 20 years since the death of Gianni Versace. In 1997, the designer was tragically murdered on the steps of his Miami mansion, and the fashion world, in which sister Donatella upholds the temple of his legacy, has never been the same. Arguably one of the most famous designers in history, Versace is one of the few industry legends who passed before their time, making their absence from the runway felt for decades to come, if not forever. And, just as they do every year, fashion veterans and confidants are remembering his legacy.
A, if not the, muse of Versace, the great Naomi Campbell, remembered the visionary in an interview for Vogue Italia, which provides insight into their close friendship. For Campbell, the ready-to-wear and couturier served not only as a best friend, but her protector, a guardian that always pushed her to be a larger-than-life version of herself. For the two, the sky — not the end of the runway — truly was the limit. Asked if Versace had ever saved her life, Campbell revealed: "So many times. I can hear him in my mind, telling me don’t do this, get out of this situation. And I obey. I owe it to him that I am still alive."
Versace was a star of the generation of designers who were more provocateurs than businessmen, often sending the supermodels of the era down the runway in three to — in Campbell's case — ten looks at a time that weren't simply outfits, but armor that blended aesthetics such as glamour, androgyny, camp — and even BDSM — seamlessly. It's no secret that fashion shows back then felt more like art, or theater, as opposed to the homogenous, furiously hashtagged lineups of today. For Versace, famous or not — if you sat front row, you were family.
Because he was so revered in the industry, that meant he withheld the power to change (and improve) the lives of the women around him. "He was the first to recognize our individuality and to pay us accordingly," Campbell told Vogue. "He was also the first to introduce the concept of exclusivity: you flew to Milan or Paris, and you would walk only for him." This, plus several other tributes from 'Gianni's Girls' ahead, show just how deeply Versace touched the hearts of those around him, and why he is still missed so genuinely by the fashion industry today. To think it's only been 20 years...