A Look Back at Donatella and Gianni

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Fashion history has had its fair share of muses—models, celebrities, even fictional characters—but none have flipped the script like Donatella Versace. Born on May 2, 1955 in Reggio Calabria, Italy, Versace was the youngest of her three siblings. Despite an eight-year age difference, Donatella and her older brother Gianni were inseparable from her birth. Gianni first flexed his sartorial muscles with Donatella as his doll; he showered her in custom-made outfits and encouraged the beauty excursions that led to her signature bleached hair and thick eyeliner. When Gianni first launched the house of Versace in 1978, Donatella never strayed from his side, although she happily dodged the public eye. Throughout Versace’s climb to success, Donatella was an omnipresent force in the company—dubbed Gianni’s female alter ego, she served as her brother’s creative sounding board, business consultant, celebrity wrangler, and fundamental muse. After Gianni’s tragic death in July 1997, Donatella was crowned Versace’s artistic director, with all eyes on her for the first time in her 20-plus years under Gianni’s wing. In the decades since, as the driving force behind her namesake house, the once-shy designer has become an industry titan, feminist figure, and pop culture icon. On the eternal muse’s 65th birthday, CR looks back on the dynamic sibling duo that changed the course of fashion.

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