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Donatella Versace on The Queen, Doing a Reality TV Show, and Getting Robbed by Elizabeth Taylor


Donatella Versace
Photo: Getty Images
Donatella Versace, as a guest speaker at the Oxford University Union.

Look out, Queen Elizabeth. Donatella Versace has set her sights on you.

Chatting with Style.com's Tim Blanks at the Oxford University Union on May 30, the Versace designer revealed that she's itching to shake up the monarch's style, Vogue U.K. reports.

"If I could dress anyone I'd like to dress the Queen—she can handle anything," the blonde bombshell told the audience. "I'd put her in black—she never wears black—and add a little leather, maybe. A little rock 'n' roll."

Can we make this happen? But while Her Majesty—who, according to Versus protégé Christopher Kane, did not wear one of his designs to a recent meeting with Britain's fashion elite—earned nothing but praise, a different Elizabeth didn't fare so well.

"My brother collected vintage jewelry and I was wearing a ring that he'd given me," Versace said of meeting the late Elizabeth Taylor. "Elizabeth said in this extraordinary breathy voice: 'Darling I love your ring, may I try it?' And she didn't give it back! She put it on and breathed, 'Oh darling thank you, you didn't have to do that!' But I hadn't!"

With juicy stories like that, it's perhaps not so surprising that the 57-year-old can see a reality TV show in her future.

"I'm sure people don't have time to watch anything about me but I'd love to do a show—something with my friend Rupert Everett," she said.

Again, can we make this happen? As Everett, Erdem, and Kane ("the best fashion designer in England—I learn so much from him, I hope he learns a little from me") watched on from the audience, Versace also gushed about collaborating with H&M, saying that it was a major self-esteem boost. 

Things took a somber turn as the designer recounted the tragedy of her brother Gianni's 1997 murder, and how his death affected the label's aesthetic.

"At the beginning, after my brother's terrible death, all the iconography was like a sanctuary, so special, it felt untouchable," she said. "I had to find my own voice. It was only after his death that I realized how difficult the job was. With him it had been exciting and easy but all of a sudden it was completely different.

"But you also have to remember that it was the end of the '90s. For a while since then we all moved away from the bling we were famous for—it was too sexy, not in line with the general mood—but now, certainly in 2012, it's back; people are having fun with fashion again, so I had to find the courage to look at the past in a new perspective. Suddenly when I looked at his last collection, of 1997, I started not to be afraid anymore."

Wearing a skintight black leather dress of her own design, she also opened up about her own fashion identity.

"Fashion is a weapon that you can use when you need it," she explained. "I think my own look makes people think I'm tough but when they get to know me I'm very different. It's like armor that was useful to me in the first years after Gianni's death. It was difficult to live that pain in public—and to be compared to him when he was the genius and I was only ever the accessory. It was hard to hear people constantly say 'Will she make it?' I don't mean to sound like a martyr—just to make the point that I used my personal image to hide all these emotions."

So, where does Versace see fashion heading as the economic struggles to get back on its feet?

"Some say the economy means that you have to persuade people to invest in clothes—to buy less things but more expensive things," she said. "I disagree—invest in jewelry, or a house, maybe, but not in fashion. Designers have to ensure that their brand stays in the real world—like we have, hopefully, with Versus—but then you have to work hard to make sure the creativity survives. In hard times you still have to be extreme. Fashion always has to be about changing and moving forward, to make people dream. My job now is to make our aesthetic evolve while remaining truly Versace—I want to make dresses that every woman wants: sexy and jaw-dropping. I always want it to be relevant but I also want it to be always about glamour."

Count us in!

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