Book Review: House of Versace

Crown Publishers – New York

13 years ago Versace was synonymous with the 90’s excessive and opaque glamour. 13 years ago it was the most celebrated house in one of the world’s most elusive institutions; it was a juggernaut seemingly destined to cement itself in the pantheon of fashion’s greatest. 13 years ago Gianni Versace was murdered and everything changed. Wall street Journal writer Deborah Ball has detailed the genesis, ascension, tragedy, and destruction of one fashion’s most peculiar families. House of Versace chronicles what is now fashion lore — Versace’s rise to supremacy and the house’s near demolishment.

The Versace brand has existed as an enigma since the founding designer’s untimely death, and Ball has served to clarify and give understanding to the exact sensitivities of the story. House of Versace entails the same rigorous research as Terri Agin’s The End of Fashion and Alicia Drake’s The Beautiful Fall, hallmarks of fashion journalism. Giving a comprehensive account of everyone and anyone who knew or worked with the Versace family since their humble beginnings in Reggio, Ball caringly (to both the family’s needs and reader’s expectations) traces every step, every turning point, and every obstacle, thoroughly explaining what Versace was and how it became what it is today.

And it’s quite the insight that Ball shares, shedding light not only on the future of Versace but other brands that are having an impossible time with the economic downturn. If anything, the recession has given us a clear focus amidst the haze of fashion gimmicks and hype, showing us exactly how the industry spins the game. As Christian Lacroix and Yohji Yamamoto, two of fashion’s most venerated brands, faced bankruptcy last year it became quite clear that is and always has been a business. Yet rooted in this peculiar industry are necessities of glamour and luxury, so dependent on image and an expert understanding of the subtleties of contemporary culture. Deborah Ball has given us an even higher vantage with her detailed explanation of one of fashion’s most prestigious names and biggest tragedies.

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