After studying briefly at the Faculty of Architecture, the young man returned to his dream of becoming a fashion designer. An entrepreneur from Milan asked him to design a collection for Florentine Flowers, a clothing firm. ’It’s incredible how one phone call can change a life,’ said the acclaimed fashion genius.
A few years later, Gianni founded his empire, and he chose Medusa, the most famous of the Gorgon sisters and a symbol of fatal charms, as the company’s logo. With the help of Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of American Vogue, the whole of America learned about the Italian designer. Madonna, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Hugh Grant, Cher, George Michael, and other celebrities were donning glamorous dresses by Versace. He made about a billion dollars a year.
In 1992, the couturier moved to Miami, buying a mansion on Ocean Drive, where he invested $33 million and his creative inspiration in improvements.
He adored his new ’nest’ and considered it a paradise for meetings and love. Today it is the most photographed building in Miami and the third most popular in America (after the White House in Washington, D.C., and Elvis Presley’s estate in Memphis). Casa Casuarina is a unique place that gives the feeling of being ’tempted by luxury.’ But as Versace himself said, ’ I don’t believe in good taste.’ There are no general rules for everyone. There is no standard of beauty. According to the designer’s confession, his style is chic and shock.’
The history of the Villa Casa Casuarina is dramatic and, therefore, fascinating. While traveling in the Dominican Republic,
American tycoon Alden Freeman was delighted to see the Alcázar de Colón palace, built in the XVI century by order of the first-born son of legendary explorer Christopher Columbus. The two-story Spanish Gothic building, built of coral blocks and without a single nail, had about 50 rooms, galleries, a courtyard, and was immersed in beautiful gardens. In 1930 Mr. Freeman, following a dream, built a new architectural marvel in the suburbs of Miami, literally on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean (it is no more than 100 m between the gate and the water’s edge). In the years that followed, the mansion was rebuilt many times and changed its countless owners and tenants. There were times when a room in Casa Casuarina was available for $1 a month.
But there was an event – Seeing the mansion, Gianni exclaimed,’ I want to buy it!’ – and immediately called his lawyers. After the unification of two plots of land and the reconstruction of the building, the Versace Palace included ten bedrooms, eleven bathrooms, five libraries, an observatory, seven fireplaces, a garage for twelve cars, a big guest house, a new fountain, and the famous pool with the gold-tiled snake-haired Medusa head. The architectural ensemble is still decorated with frescoes, columns, sculptures, stained-glass, wrought iron gates and grates, marble carvings, and porcelain paintings skillfully performed by masters of old and modern times. Styles and eras spin in a crazy whirlwind of eclecticism, subject to the luxury rule. And if anyone cares about the rumor of a gold toilet, it’was here’: nothing human is alien to the celebrities. The designer himself laid the floor tile ornaments and developed the furniture sketches. And the armchairs, sofas, and pouffes were upholstered exclusively in Versace fabrics.
The press used to say that the Villa Casa Casuarina deserves no less attention than the Palace of Versailles.
The magnificent interior was complemented by antiques and authentic works of art.’ The mere accumulation of money is the lot of the poor. Paintings are collected by rich and far-sighted people’ was Versace’s personal opinion. He loved life and wanted his ’versailles’ to be an oasis of joy, abundance, and beauty. Madonna, Elton John, and even Princess Diana enjoyed visiting the mansion.
On a summer morning in 1997, it all collapsed on the doorstep of his beloved home. One of the bullets fired at Gianni Versace by a serial killer bounced off the cast-iron bars of the gate and wounded a bird that fell in front of the house. They say it was a white pigeon –