Donatella Versace has found her new Anthony Vaccarello — which is to say, her new designer for Versus Versace, the younger, hipper Versace sibling line that has been without a creative director since Mr. Vaccarello resigned to take the top job at Yves Saint Laurent this year.
Except her new designer is not, actually, a designer.
He is a 23-year-old R&B singer with a bad boy reputation, a former member of one of the biggest pop bands of the 21st century, a social media magnet with more than 35 million followers on Twitter and Instagram combined and the boyfriend of a very famous model, Gigi Hadid.
In other words, Zayn Malik.
“Versus is the rock and roll soul of the Versace family and has always been associated with music,” Ms. Versace said during an interview backstage after the recent Versus Versace show during London Fashion Week. “Everyone from the Foo Fighters to Lenny Kravitz has played at the shows, and it is all about rebellion. For me, Zayn was the perfect fit.”
Ms. Versace added that she first met Mr. Malik alongside his former One Direction bandmate, Harry Styles, several years ago and that his quiet, mysterious demeanor had immediately intrigued her.
“That said, I was not exactly a fan of that band,” she continued, wrinkling her nose in disdain. “But then I met him again when he started to date Gigi, who I work with all the time. And he impressed me very much — he was so mature, so thoughtful, treated her like such a gentleman. They are very nice young people, a lovely couple, in fact. And then he told me how much he loved fashion. It was then I knew he was the right face for what I had in mind.
“Many celebrities do clothing lines that just aren’t relevant,” Ms. Versace said with a grin. “This one? It will be. He’s smart to do it with me.”
Together Ms. Versace and Mr. Malik will design Zayn X Versus, a capsule collection of men’s and women’s clothing that will be presented to buyers and the media in the spring and then, in May, will be available in Versus stores and online. Mr. Malik, who wore a Versace robotlike arm sheath to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute ball in May and introduced a 23-piece streetwear line under his own name earlier this year, will also become the face of Versus in advertising campaigns.
Not that Mr. Malik was anywhere to be seen when reporters, including this one, tried to talk to him about the project after the brand’s show during London Fashion Week last month. Mr. Malik, who had spent the evening in the front row holding hands with Ms. Hadid, had been scheduled for a batch of top-secret interviews, once the crowds melted away. But he, too, vanished, without warning nor a clue to his whereabouts, sending a small army of sleek black-clad publicists into a panicked tailspin.
Ms. Versace, for her part, seemed nonplused as she sipped a mineral water backstage and greeted well-wishers, though the no-show was in keeping with the vision she has always had for her younger, more streetwise fashion brand.
“Versus is everything that the Versace line is not. It is loud, it is rebellious — I don’t want shoppers buying both from Versus and Versace. The houses have different souls,” Ms. Versace said. “I wanted Zayn because he can help me talk to his followers. I want to listen to their language. I want to learn more about them, what they think and what they like. They are a new generation that without working with someone like Zayn, I will never reach.”
For his part, the elusive Mr. Malik agreed, at least via an email earlier this week. “I think Versus has always been a very cool brand and is a great brand for me and for people in my generation,” Mr. Malik wrote. “I’ve always wanted to design clothes and there’s no brand I’d rather design for than Versus. I like to learn about things I’m interested in and I enjoy being around creative people so I think it will be cool. The bonus is that I get to collaborate with Donatella, whom I love and admire. I know we’ll create something amazing.”
In the difficult trading climate that many luxury brands have been facing recently, Versus Versace has proved a resilient performer; in the 12 months to March this year, the group announced that retail revenue from sales of the secondary line had doubled, just as it had the period before. Clearly Ms. Versace, whose daughter, Allegra, also works on the Versus brand, has her eyes on further growth — fueled by the millennial consumer.
“This isn’t just a breathing season — this is the beginning of a whole new era for Versus,” she said, adding that a percentage of the proceeds generated by the partnership with Mr. Malik would be donated to charity. “Zayn is clearly our plan for now. But I think going forward I will keep doing collaborations with other musicians and rock stars as guest designers. It will be like our version of taking the brand on tour.”
Chen Kun and Wu Yifan will make their appearance in this year’s Met Gala as representatives of Chinese actors. It is also the first time Chinese actors will be appearing for the Met Ball red carpet event.
2015 Met Ball in New York Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Museum Charity Ball will be opened next month, the theme of this year’s Met Ball coincides with China. Many Chinese figures will appear on the red carpet: both regulars in previous years, and other stars that will make their first appearances. Of course, there will also be popular “fresh meat”.