Versace's H&M collection draws celebrities in New York

ANSA, Saturday 12 Nov 2011

H&M revealed their firstcollection in a big, star-studded fashion show in New York

Hollywood's A-list turned out to celebrate when Donatella Versace launched her cheeky new collection for Swedish retailer H&M in New York late Tuesday.

Blake Lively, Jessica Alba and Uma Thurman were among the guests who watched the designer's collection in a fashion show in Manhattan's fashionable Meatpacking District.

Singing star Prince performed at a cocktail party after the show which has provoked the curiosity of fashion lovers on both sides of the Atlantic.

The collection covers a wild colour spectrum from hot pinks to lime greens and there are plenty of body-hugging skirts, dresses and leggings with the sequins, studs, leather and fringes that Versace fans have come to expect.

The women's collection features 40 clothing pieces and 20 accessories, including a classic black dress with Grecian gold buttons and a floor-length goddess gown with a boned bodice as well as sequin dresses in archival Versace prints.

"This is a very joyful collection," Versace told reporters backstage at the show.

Versace said she believed the collection will be popular and help to cheer up consumers who are struggling with the economic downturn. "It was done totally wrong the last time the economy failed," she said. "Everyone said, 'Let's do safe clothes of a good quality that people will invest in and wear year after year.' That couldn't be more wrong. "The companies that survived the most were the ones that were recognisable, that stuck to their DNA, and our DNA is glamour".

When Versace announced plans to design for the internationally renowned retailer, it marked the latest in a dramatic transformation at the Italian designer brand.

The company, founded in 1978 by the late Gianni Versace, is known for its glitzy tiger prints, skin-tight leather and splashy colours but it suffered serious upheaval after the designer's murder in Miami in 1997. At the end of 2003, Versace was forced to restructure almost 120 million Euros in debt and cut jobs, as the company was transformed.

In the last couple of years, Gianni's successors, sister Donatella and brother Santo, have reinvented the company which is known around the world for its famous Medusa logo.

"I am thrilled to be collaborating with H&M and to have the opportunity of reaching its wide audience," Versace said after the announcement in June. "The collection is the essence of Versace. For the collaboration we've brought back from the archives, as well as recent collections, some of the icons of Versace such as the bright prints, the Greek key and daring cuts," she said.

The alliance was a dramatic turnaround for Versace, who in 2008 claimed that a high-street diffusion range was not for her "I respect everyone who does it," Versace said at the time.

"But the reason I didn't do it is because I work very hard to put the Versace line in the luxury section. I think to put the Versace line in H&M would confuse the brand".

Not any more. Versace is now joining a long line of big names including Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Roberto Cavalli and Jimmy Choo who have designed collections for H&M.

Versace is often described as the world's sexiest fashion label and it has also gained from a powerful alliance with the world's most influential pop icon, Lady Gaga. Now consumers around the world will be curious to see the line of womenswear, menswear and homewares which will be available in 300 H&M stores in 40 countries from 17 November.

A second collection is expected to follow in January.

"Versace is one of the most important brands of recent times and their collection for H&M will be glamorous and flamboyant," said Margareta van den Bosch, creative advisor at H&M, earlier this year.

H&M is the world's second-largest clothing retailer and is based in Sweden. The company said China, the UK and the US were expected to be its biggest markets for expansion this year and it also plans to start online sales in the US soon.

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