Versace, 1991

Peculiar clothes for a peculiar time: men’s fashion had just begun its rise to legitimacy, gaining ground alongside women’s wear as a cultural meter while the economy still pulled itself together. Versace’s participation would not be through classical, timeless clothes (he knew well enough to leave that to Giorgio) but instead championing the novelty of the outlandish and new — fashion with a capital F. Vivid colors and prints, visual humor, optical effects: taste pushed to its maximum limits, this would be the unabashed Calabrian’s way. It would be potent and simultaneously give fashion license to conventional machismo aspiration and homosexual self-discovery, to newfound appreciation for excess and a jaunty modernism, all packaged under the Medusa seal to be sold around the world. If the the leisure suits and paisley prints of the 1960’s were for peacocks, Versace was a bird of paradise. And a decade later all of it would be over.

Subtlety had entered the vernacular of cool and that left the Versace Man of the early ’90s disrupted and far behind, his wild bravado lost on more refined tastes and minimalist sophistication. And for the next decade after that he would remain dormant, stashed away in the halfway house for fashion taboos. It would be an intense struggle for the house, navigating its iconic history through a fashion mob that seemed to despise it. But things are always changing in fashion. And so we wonder why he has now reappeared, in almost full glory, not only at the house of his conception but elsewhere, places where the strangeness and perceived ridiculousness can begin to make some kind of sense, again.

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