Diana and Versace: How an Italian designer helped a British princess become herself

What could unite the creator of bold and extremely sexy outfits and a representative of the conservative British monarchy? As it turned out, quite a lot. Gianni Versace created a lot of stylish outfits for Diana in the last years of her life and helped the princess show the world how free she can be.

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

Princess Diana and Gianni Versace

Every famous designer has his own star muse. Princess Diana was able to become an inspiration for the widest range of designers. And this is not surprising: her style during her life in the BCS and the change of statuses from kindergarten teacher to prince’s wife, mom and a free divorced aristocrat has undergone so many changes that among her favorite brands were noted the native British Catherine Walker, and restrained Chanel, and sexy Versace.

The 90s became a real thaw for the Welsh style – after the divorce from the prince, strict protocol requirements ceased to be mandatory, while interest in her persona grew, and fashion influence only strengthened. She was watched no less, and admired even more. Therefore, for the designers who were working on her outfits at that time, it was a stellar time. What can I say if the outfits in which Diana appeared at events during this period are still exhibited in museums and discussed by fashion critics. 

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

The collaboration of Gianni Versace, the founder of the Italian House Versace, and a representative of the conservative royal family can hardly be imagined. Representatives of the monarchy should dress more often in British brands, and less often in the creations of foreign designers, even if extremely relevant. However, after the scandalous divorce, Diana’s fashion horizons expanded significantly – although she still attended official events, Diana’s stylist Anna Harvey now had her hands free in choosing clothes.

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

One of the people who noticeably refreshed Diana’s wardrobe at this time and showed other facets of the princess’ style was Gianni Versace, a lover of Italian luxury. However, the close cooperation of the two cult personalities did not develop immediately. Anna Harvey, the princess’s stylist, turned to the Versace clan – and she did it very carefully. As Deborah Ball writes in the book, “The House of Versace. An incredible story about genius, murder and rebirth,” the Welsh stylist decided to act through hairdresser Sam McKnight, who often worked at Versace shows. He asked Donatella to offer some photos of images for a very high-ranking person, whose name should remain a secret for now. Of course, Diana turned out to be her, and soon Welsh was already shining on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine in one of the creations of the Italian house Versace – an ice-blue dress with wide straps, decorated with crystals and beads. The choice was very bold, and in combination with a very bold hairstyle, the image looked especially impressive. 

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

“For my brother and me, its gradual evolution was more fascinating than any series,” Donatella Versace shared. – But we began to perceive her as a style icon back in 1991, after shooting the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Gianni sewed a tight blue dress with gold cufflinks for Diana, and Sam McKnight made her iconic haircut shorter and “licked” her hair back. In this form, she posed for Patrick Demarchelier – liberated, strong, able to take her life into her own hands. The “firm,” as she called the royal family, took the title from her, but Dee proved that she never needed it.”

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

The success of the fashionable tandem was stunning. However, Diana herself at that time accepted the brand’s offers rather coldly. Once Gianni Versace sent her a whole truck of outfits to Kensington Palace, but she returned them with a polite rejection note, explaining that she never accepts fashionable gifts. Despite this incident, the collaboration of the British style icon and the Italian master has not ended. In the following years, Gianni created a whole series of different wardrobe capsules for Lady Di. Both evening looks (for example, the iconic purple floor-length dress that Welsh tried on for a gala dinner in Chicago) and cocktail mini-dresses, which Diana was especially fond of after her divorce from Prince Charles. Diana’s images have become bolder, sexier, freer, but at the same time not at all vulgar. It seems that this is why the princess fell in love with Versace – for the ability to be on the edge and at the same time never cross this line.

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

The world lost them almost simultaneously, in the summer of 1997. And the funeral of the Italian fashion designer was one of the last mass events that the princess attended in her life. Here she met for the last time with their mutual close friend Elton John, with whom relations had cooled somewhat shortly before the tragedy.

Диана и Версаче: как итальянский дизайнер помог британской принцессе стать собой

Princess Diana at the funeral of Gianni Versace in Milan, July 22, 1997

On July 15, 1997, Versace was returning home from a walk when Andrew Cunanan approached him. The killer shot the famous designer twice on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion, and then calmly left. Diana was told about Versace’s death when she was on board a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea with her lover Dodi Al-Fayed. “I am devastated by the loss of a great and talented person,” Diana said.

Just a month before Versace’s tragic death, the Princess of Wales gave an interview for Vanity Fair, and the article also contains a comment by Versace himself. “Last week I had a fitting with her of new suits and dresses for spring, and she is so calm,” he said, adding. – I think this is the very moment in her life when she found herself – and lives the way she wants to live.”

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