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Why Versace Is An Icon Of Italian Style

The maximalist label lands on MR PORTER

“Versace is opulence, indulgence and luxury,” says actor Mr Cesare Taurasi, one of the two Italian-British regazzi (alongside athlete Mr Andrew Pozzi) whom MR PORTER asked to take the brand’s latest collection for a spin. “The Medusa head symbolises true Italian style. Versace is and always has been bold. It doesn’t suffer from shyness and it’s so unapologetic about it.” Indeed. Versace is not for the faint-hearted. Its silk shirts have been billowing on bronzed bodies in European resorts for decades. It was one of the defining labels of the UK garage heyday. Its sunglasses were a key part of Brooklyn rapper The Notorious BIG’s look.

Mr Pozzi (above, right), the current indoor world and European 60m hurdles champion, says, “Versace conjures up the feeling of absolute comfort, style and sophistication”. He wears a Versace bathrobe when at home. “I feel like a king lounging around in it,” he says. “Rest and recovery are a vital part of being an athlete and this piece sets the tone.” Mr Taurasi, who has starred in films and TV shows including The Borgias, The Man From UNCLE and Delicious, was born in Manchester to Italian parents and has strong memories of the brand growing up. His older brother had a pair of leather Versace trousers, which he borrowed for a non-uniform day, pairing them with a white T-shirt and sneakers. “All the girls loved them,” he says, clearly still ecstatic at the reception. “I was getting compliments left, right and centre and I felt like Danny Zuko.” The character played by Mr John Travolta in Grease is not the first person to spring to mind as the Versace man, but then again, he’s a slick bad boy, so it’s not entirely off, either.

Sex is certainly at the heart of Versace’s appeal. The brand oozes it and encourages it, and not just via Mses Liz Hurley, Jennifer Lopez and the 1990s supermodels whom creator Mr Gianni Versace so adored, but for us men, too. “Italian style is more than just wearing beautiful clothes,” says Mr Taurasi. “There has to be a sense of confidence, of ownership and, most importantly, Italian style must exude sex appeal. With Italian style, you know you’re always going to feel desirable, you’re always going to feel elegant and you’re always going to feel just that little bit smug, like the cat that’s got the cream.” The swagger that Versace signals has also made it a favourite in the world of hip-hop. Puff Daddy barely takes it off, rap trio Migos name-dropped the brand repeatedly in their first hit, “Versace”, and 2 Chainz sat front row at the AW18 show. Of course he did. The brand’s new, much-hyped maximal sneaker, the Chain Reaction, was inspired by him.

Versace makes its debut on MR PORTER with this very collection, which has all the brilliantly excessive Italian feel that we’ve come to expect from the brand. It’s pushing baroque as hard as ever, with signature printed silk shirts, gold crushed-velvet blouson jackets and sweatpants with ornate side stripes.

This season, Versace is also going beyond that, mixing mashed-up classical prints with punk-inspired tartans, American varsity vibes and football culture, making it more relevant to more men. Soccer lovers can be #TeamVersace in the logo football shirt, the terrace scarf and checkerboard-collared polo shirts. All of this, along with the souped-up sneakers, put Versace in a streetwear space that it seems fully at home in. It makes a lot of sense at a moment when the 1990s are perhaps the strongest reference in menswear. No brand sums up the excesses of that decade better. So please, go ahead. Enjoy them.