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Italy Loves Sweden


A conversation with Donatella Versace on her H&M collaboration.

It used to be if you wanted to feel Euro on a budget you might pick up a classic H&M look. Then, the Swedish megaretailer got serious with its mission to bring fashion to the masses by teaming up with major designers, the latest being Versace. The Versace-H&M pairing may seem like a bizarre match. But this philosophical yin and yang has created a killer combo. "Darling, odd pairings make the most beautiful relationships," says Donatella Versace, the creative director who is almost as iconic as her family business. She didn't forego an ounce of her over-the-top opulence. The prices are more affordable, but the look is pure Versace. She's pulled off a lively, vigorous collection -- flashy colors, patterns, and outre designs -- which is sure to cause the usual stampedes when it's released in stores this November. Versace, of course, has mammoth stature in the world of high fashion. But now, the brand can make an even broader overture to the masses. We chatted with la Divina about the new line and her fabulous world vision.

Are you a fan of designer pairings, such as Jil Sander and Uniqlo for +J?
I loved the Lanvin collaboration with H&M. The clothes were incredible, don't you think? But also the whole event was such a celebration, from the launch party to the way it felt so special for the H&M customers to be able to get a hold of these clothes. It's that same spirit of celebration that I want. But don't forget this is Versace. Expect even more.

Why do you think collaborations went from a trend to an industry staple?
It was a scandal when H&M first started its designer collaborations. Some people reacted like it was the end of the world, the end of luxury fashion, that no one would buy designer clothes again. Of course, that turned out to be nonsense. Luxury fashion has grown stronger than ever, and the collaborations get more confident and more extravagant.

You used iconic Versace prints and motifs. This wasn't some collaboration where you were burying your voice.
I've never buried my voice in my life, even before I could speak. If I do something, I do it with pride, especially if it carries the name of my family. I love the fact that these iconic moments from the Versace heritage will become part of the fashion dialogue again.

What was the most challenging thing about creating clothes for a lower price point?
That wasn't my challenge. I delivered my designs, my ideas, and the Versace DNA to H&M. It was their task to figure out how to create these pieces. Don't ask me how they do it. They are the experts. All I know is that the clothes are incredible. I wouldn't let them out of the sample room door if they were not.

Was there anything that you had to sacrifice?
Listen, if you're looking for exotic leathers or the most luxurious fabrics in the world, you can go to the Versace store to find it. When I created this H&M collection, I knew that I was creating fashion that was for everyone, and that comes with obvious parameters in terms of the fabrics and finishes. But in terms of ideas, I felt absolutely free to do whatever I wanted. I felt such incredible freedom when I designed the collection, creating something outside the usual system -- to make an iconic collection that wasn't for runway or a particular season, but which was just for the love of fashion. It made me wish there could be fewer rules in fashion -- more freedom, more experimentation.
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