“Versace is always the dream,” says Dua Lipa. She is sitting on the roof of a parking garage in Los Angeles, surrounded by a thrumming crowd of fashion editors bleary from the Paris runways, stylists taking a break from their A-list clients for the upcoming Oscars, and K-Pop princes in popsicle-colored suits. Elton John zips by in a golf cart. The sun is about to set.
It’s almost golden hour and go time for Versace’s fall/winter 2023 show, which moved this season from Milan to Melrose Place, and harnessed the way everyone in Hollywood is chasing clout—fame, power, art, or even just sheer attention—while trying (or at least claiming) to stay grounded. If la-la land is merely an illusion, it’s one with real stakes and true emotions lurking just beneath its glossy surface. Fashion straddles a similar line between fantasy and reality: it skips between our very real bodies and our very big imaginations. And because she’s una specie di genia—that’s “kind of a genius” in Italian—Donatella Versace has managed to make clothes for every girl, everywhere, all at once…even the girls who just live in our heads.
First, there was Gigi Hadid’s opening look: a black power suit and slashed-pocket peplum that straddled the line between CEO and celebrity. (When it crossed Paris Hilton’s field of vision, it became a living meme for “get you a girl who can do both.”) Croc-embossed miniskirts and tweed cocoon coats were firmly rooted in the reality of working women, while a few micro mini poufs (including one on Kendall Jenner) were part of the “no pants, no problem” trend and likely a revenge breakup post waiting to happen. In between were tons of options, both practical and dreamy—leather trenches, 3-D floral fabrics, goth-lite babydoll dresses—that towed Versace’s assertively sexy party line, as in, “You’re wearing a Versace, you’d better go party.”
Like the California Dream itself, the show ended in a fantasy…and then again in a reality. The L.A. skyline became a purple haze, and Versace took her runway bow, wearing the same dress Emily Ratajkowski donned in the show. Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” blared through the speakers, and Anne Hathaway screamed every lyric in a glorious karaoke moment for the ages. Waiters circled with champagne and tiny pieces of avocado toast. Everyone took selfies, especially Tan France.
Next, the crowd of very famous stars realized they were on top of a parking garage at rush hour, and in mere seconds, transformed into impressively pragmatic people. Demi Moore led the charge to the elevators, Pamela Anderson navigated a steep staircase in pencil-thin stilettos (“I’ve been doing this a while!” she laughed), and Miley Cyrus huddled with stylist Patti Wilson behind a valet station until the actual valet returned with their car. Cyrus’ two-tone gown looked just as good in the ghastly fluorescent lighting—another nod to Signora Versace’s skill at making glamour very real, even when surrounded by everyday grime.
Oh, one more thing: the Versace show was held on Barbie’s birthday, and just a few miles up from her hometown of Malibu. There was no official tribute, but with eight bright pink looks on the catwalk and a series of satiny pink bags and shoes, it seems Barbiecore is definitively here to stay—at least until July, anyway, because that’s when the movie comes out. Coincidentally or not, that’s when these clothes do, too.
Editor at Large, ELLE.com
“Her beauty and her brain go not together.” —William Shakespeare