Versace Reboots in Miami with Sustainability in Mind

Karen Quarles

Photography by Matthew Morrocco

Caroline Vreeland and Paola Pivi_20181012_0079
Caroline Vreeland, the great-granddaughter of fashion icon Diana Vreeland, wears a white denim jacket, pencil skirt and printed wedge sandals from Versace’s Resort 2019 collection at Karen Rifas’s exhibition at The Bass.

Sustainability is sexy—and the house of Versace is here to prove it. In November the Italian luxury brand unveiled its opulent new boutique in Bal Harbour. The minimalist space is every bit as chic as one would expect: The ceiling is a gleaming network of brass beams suspended above a white-tiled floor hand assembled by Italian artisans. What really shines, though, is its environmental pedigree.

The store was conceived by Curiosity, the Tokyo-based firm of designer Gwenael Nicolas, who has also created interiors for Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton and Fendi. Rated LEED Gold by the US Green Building Council, it was built using environmentally responsible methods and materials, including recomposed marble and Forest Stewardship Council–certified wood, and features energy-efficient lighting and climate control. “Versace is a brand that never ceases to surprise,” says Nicolas. “Its intense curiosity for the new keeps the collections contemporary and innovative. The new store concept follows that path.”

Indeed, the Bal Harbour boutique reflects Versace artistic director Donatella Versace’s farsighted push for sustainable luxury. In December 2017 she debuted the company’s eco-friendly store design concept at its London flagship on Sloane Street; the Miami location is the second to receive a green upgrade, with more slated to follow. “I love this new concept that embraces a sustainable future for the people and for the environment,” she says. “I believe in constant evolution, and I think this project perfectly embraces the heritage of the brand with innovative spatial design for Versace’s vision for the future.”

As one of fashion’s most recognizable and influential figures, Donatella Versace could comfortably rest on her laurels. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the house, which she has successfully helmed since the death of its founder, her brother Gianni Versace, in 1997. To celebrate the 40-year milestone, she dedicated the label’s spring 2018 runway show to Gianni’s genius, reprising his most iconic looks. The show and subsequent ad campaign featured many of the legendary models who have represented the brand over the years, including Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington Burns. But this fond look back has not kept her from implementing a series of bold steps forward.

In September the company announced its acquisition by Michael Kors Holdings, which will now be called Capri Holdings, for $2.12 billion. The move allows Versace to grow significantly, particularly in its accessories and footwear segments. (Bag and shoe collectors, take note!)

Donatella has extended her focus on sustainability to the clothes, as well, reexamining Versace’s supply chain and creating a code of conduct among her suppliers. This past spring, supermodel Gisele Bündchen attended the Met Gala in a Versace organic silk gown, ecologically dyed a radiant gold and embroidered with crystals made from recycled glass bottles—an object lesson in what Donatella believes the industry can and should achieve. She’s also renounced fur beginning with the 2019 collections.

“Everyone looks to Versace for what a sexy modern woman should be,” says musician and Versace ambassador Caroline Vreeland, great-granddaughter of revered Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. “Now that this woman is being responsible about the quality of the clothes she wears, it simply reconfirms that the Versace woman is the woman I want to be.”

It’s clear that Donatella shares her clients’ environmental and ethical concerns and intends for Versace not only to remain relevant in our changing world but to take the lead in shaping it for the better. “There’s no bigger luxury than our future,” she says.