It was July 15, 1997 when the entire fashion world was shocked by unexpected news: Gianni Versace was murdered in front of his Miami Beach villa, as he returned from a walk. To date, despite the media being invaded by reconstructions, books and TV series, a shadow remains on the causes of the murder and the pain that has accompanied his family members over the years struggles to find a truce.
Holy Versacewho managed the brand from behind the scenes for many years, tried to appease the pain by writing a book – released a few months ago for Rizzoli – entitled “Brothers. An Italian family”in which he indulged in memories and confessions about the relationship that bound him to his designer brother and sister, Donatella Versace.
The new life of Santo Versace today also passes through the birth of a foundation of the same name, carried out together with his wife Francesca De Stefano Versace, thanks to their willingness to make a difference for those less fortunate. In fact, both have long been active in the social sector both on a personal level and within non-profit organizations.
We interviewed Santo Versace to talk about fashion, cinema and his new life in the third sector.
“In Miami, on July 15, 1997, a part of me also died”, we read at the beginning of “Brothers. An Italian family”, released 25 years after the death of his brother Gianni. Was it liberating to write this book?
Thanks to this book, I freed myself from so many tragedies and traumas experienced in my life: in fact, I not only lost my brother Gianni when I was just over 50, but at the age of 9 I also lost a sister, Tinuccia, who had only 13 months older than me. Now that I’ve started to tell a part of my life, I want to go ahead and complete the work. I will write more books.
When Giorgio Armani was asked what he envied about Gianni Versace, he replied “his brother Santo”. How did this statement make you feel and how were your support and thoughts of him essential in combining with Gianni’s creativity?
Obviously I was enthusiastic about that statement, made by someone who in those years represented the other genius in Italian fashion. Versace was the pinnacle of art and imagination, Armani of style. They gave extraordinary strength to that “Milan to drink” which helped to create a new image of Italy, made up of commitment and creativity, in all sectors: maybe it could come back! Milan lost a lot with Gianni’s death: as the writer Quirino Conti underlined ten years after his death, “Dionysus had abandoned his temple”. Gianni was the inspiration, the art, I was the column that supported the practical, industrial part.
You have recently set up a foundation that bears your name, which is why I would like to ask you how it feels to be an active part of such an important project and what are the objectives of this “newborn” of the Italian third sector.
We are supporting many projects, the first is that of Don Aldo Buonaiuto who rescues many prostitutes from the street. Another initiative that we are trying to enhance is related to women who work in prison: it is necessary to act so that they have a job after their imprisonment. We work with Patrizia Corbo for the Piccolo Principe Social Cooperative (which deals with disadvantaged minors), we collaborate with Chiara Amirante to support the Nuovi Orizzonti international community (which gives help to those who find themselves in situations of serious social hardship) and we are supporting many other projects. The fundamental thing is to be able to build a network of virtuous foundations: if we are united and connected, we will be able to do much more and much better with the same means.
You recently defined the Foundation as “that child we never had”: how important was the contribution of your wife Francesca to the realization of this goal?
It’s true, Francesca and I didn’t have children together, which is why we set up our Foundation. He is the heir who will carry us into eternity.
I read that after two Lions in Venice, his and Francesca’s dream would be to bring one of your films to win an Oscar.
When I left the fashion world, I realized that the greatest thing I’ve ever dreamed of is making films. I have always had a passion for Federico Fellini, Vittorio De Sica and all the great directors who have made the history of the seventh art in Italy and around the world. My wife Francesca has also always been passionate about cinema, and we found it ideal to invest in Minerva Pictures. I already knew Gianluca Curti (Chief Executive Officer of Minerva, ed) so everything happened very naturally. We have been partners in this historic production and distribution company since 2019 and it is a job that we love. We have already made a bet: when we went to the last Venice Film Festival, after seeing the film I said to my wife “We will win a lion”. Out of superstition, she suggested that I not say such a thing. Well, at the end of Leoni we won two: the Lion of the Future, Venice Prize for Luigi De Laurentiis’ first film, and the Silver Lion, the Critics’ Prize. Now the goal is to go to Hollywood to collect an Oscar. For me it is a clear and precise goal, otherwise I would not have embarked on this beautiful adventure.
You were a forerunner of the values of sustainability in fashion, founding Altagamma, which brings together companies of Italian excellence around these values.
With Altagamma we have brought together the beauty of our country to communicate it better and learn how to do business, as the French already knew how to do. Gianni’s death changed not only the history of fashion, but also of the economy: it was precisely in 1997 that we announced our imminent listing on the stock exchange, when a merger with Gucci was proposed to us. If it had happened, we would have finally founded the first pole of Italian fashion.
Leave a Reply