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Versace on the Hudson

H&M Spares No Expense to Celebrate Its Collaboration With Donatella

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Allegra Versace and Donatella Versace   
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If you thought H&M went all out for its high-low collaboration with Lanvin last year, you ain't seen nothing yet. Tonight's Versace for H&M extravaganza at an utterly transformed Pier 57 on Manhattan's West Side Highway included an F-word-laced set by Nicki Minaj and a performance by no less a superstar than Prince, who seemed determined to play more unknown songs than hits. It wasn't until 12:13 a.m., after he sang the last note of the, OK, instantly recognizable "Purple Rain," that the curtains to the shopping area were finally pulled back and a throng of bloggers and editors headed for the racks. Many of the women in the crowd made beelines for the collection's men's clothes.

The evening began several hours earlier with a runway show that synthesized with tremendous verve the house of Versace's signatures—chain-mail minidresses, black leather sheaths picked out with gold studs, and a green palm-tree print that symbolized for Donatella her late brother Gianni at the height of his powers—with highlights from her own recent collections. Close observers will recognize fitted eyelet dresses with asymmetric necklines as dead ringers for numbers from her Spring 2011 show, and long strapless numbers with the same military influence as her collection for last Fall. What the collection lacked in terms of Versace's famous second-skin fit, it made up for in color and energy and accessories. Even the models' ankle socks were embroidered with the house's trademark Greek key motif.

Taking it all in was a crowd that included celebrities (Blake Lively, Jessica Alba, Uma Thurman), New York's young fashion designers (Joseph Altuzarra, Proenza Schouler's Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez), and the supermodels (Linda Evangelista) and super-photographers (Bruce Weber) who worked with Gianni Versace in the eighties and nineties. "I grew up looking at Versus catalogs in the nineties," Bryanboy blogger Bryan Grey-Yambao said. "For me, this is about memories, and about making a childhood dream accessible."

For Donatella herself, the collaboration is as much about the future as it is the past. Asked backstage before the show if the experience with H&M sparked any ideas about a collection less expensive than the company's diffusion line, Versus, she said, "It's right to think about that, but I want to enjoy this and see how the young are going to react."

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