“I Don’t Believe In Good Taste”: Gianni Versace’s Top Quotes

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Gianni Versace SS96 Couture Naomi Campbell Stella Tennant
Versace Spring/Summer 1996 Haute CouturePhotography by Victor Virgile/Gamma Rapho via Getty

To mark the 25 anniversary of his death, we remember some of the Italian fashion designer’s best soundbites

Today marks 25 years since the unfathomable death of Gianni Versace. The founder of the eponymous fashion brand Versace was returning to his villa in Miami Beach after a morning walk, only to find his murderer, armed with a pistol, waiting for him outside his home. He was 50 years old when he was tragically shot and though a quarter of a century has passed since then, the waves of influence he pulsed through the fashion industry, and beyond, are still felt today. 

Born in the southern coastal city of Reggio di Calabria, Italy, in 1946 to an appliance salesman and a dressmaker, Versace grew close to his mother and her trade, observing her like any good apprentice would, as she crafted wedding dresses for local brides in her workshop. After completing school where he studied architectural drawing at a local college, he worked as a buyer for his mother’s store as her business grew, and was soon creating his own dresses. In 1972, his ambitions as a fashion designer led him northbound to Milan, where he presented his first collection six years later, launching the Versace as we know it today. 

True to the familial essence of the designer’s creative roots, Versace plucked his business colleagues from his family tree, appointing his brother Santo Versace as CEO, managing the business operations, and his sister Donatella Versace as a vice president, primarily aiding in Versace’s creative output through styling and brand image. The designs were sensuous, provocative, and ornate, seducing customers with an Italian-Greek spirit. In the brightest colours and patterns, precious fabrics, on the most beautiful women and the hunkiest men, Gianni quickly defined his mission statement: beauty, sex, and luxury rules. Over the years, through commercial success and industry esteem, Versace snowballed to include homewares, accessories, fragrance, and couture, forming not only a fashion brand but a fully-scoped world, selling the unmistakable splendour of the Versace dream.

Credited with creating the ‘supermodel’ phenomenon, the runway shows were spectacular meetings of a fierce, empowered beauty swathed in fantasy. “He made fashion a pop culture phenomenon,” Claudia Schiffer, the model and muse to Gianni told AnOther in 2020. “We’d walk to an amazing Prince track with hundreds of photographers lining the catwalk, only to see him sitting there on the front row. He made his runway into a live show with choreography, great lighting effects and timings similar to a theatre experience.”

Today, Donatella and Santo Versace continue to build upon the brickwork left behind by Gianni, with his sister succeeding him as creative director. Few have been able to so concisely articulate a luxe, desirable lifestyle through fashion design, so instantly recognisable from the black and gold tones, to the baroque Medusa motif. With Gianni Versace’s enduring legacy in mind, we have compiled a list of words of wisdom from the man who melded past and future to create a sensual, 24-karat world. 

  1. “There is a Versace who is very conservative, there is a Versace who is very crazy, there is a Versace who is very theatre … I haven’t decided yet which I choose to be.”

  2. “I think any creative activity brings risk with it. If an artist, a painter, a journalist, a director wants to do something new, he has to take risks. It’s always easier to do things that already exists, things for which you have a model. Designing new things, that’s difficult. That’s the best thing about this job, and it’s the risk that attracts me more than anything.”

  3. “You have to break a barrier every day. Fashion, to me, is born and dies every day.”

  4. “I don’t believe in good taste.”

  5. “Even the people that say they don’t care [about fashion], they care. We like to look well. In fashion, you can find beauty, quality, life. It puts colour to your life.”

  6. “If you’re not blind, you can find fashion everywhere.”

  7. “I start work every morning [by] writing, I want to imagine women walking on the street with a simple dress – no makeup, totally different, very sophisticated – and then I translate into my designs. First thing I write down, it’s like a journal every day.” 

  8. “I have a kind of repulsion for the things you are obliged to wear.”

  9. “I think to be superficial, you have to be very profound.”

  10. “It’s like I’m already living in the next century. I like to live in the future without forgetting the past. I don’t know if my fashion has a philosophical or intellectual meaning, it has to do with people. Stupid or smart, chic or vulgar. What interests me is their stories.”

  11. “I like to tell stories with my clothes. Some are sadomasochistic, some are refined, some are violent, some are sophisticated. Above all, my fashion has a message of freedom. I’d love to see by clothes worn by rich, by poor, by everyone. But mainly by people without taboos, because this is what poisons our life. Taboos and narrow-mindedness.”

  12. “Many men would like to wear this, but they are afraid – afraid to dress, afraid to be ridiculous, afraid of their friends who wonder why they aren’t putting on a jacket and tie. But that a mafia boss can enter a restaurant while I am refused because he’s wearing a tie and I’ve got a T-shirt on, I find that goes against every moral and every sense of liberty. In an age like ours, things should be more free and democratic.” 

  13. “If I was to design a failure of a collection tomorrow, it wouldn’t worry me in the slightest. I don’t pay much attention to the critics. Some say Versace is a genius, others say Versace has no talent. But I believe neither the one nor the other, I believe in working every day, I believe in excitement in everything that makes me happy as a man and as a working person.”

  14. “I don’t care about the money. I just like to spend the money.”