Here’s a scenario to ponder. You are a cool, young, super-famous
musician with a reputation for edginess, a place in history as the man
who broke up One Direction, and an equally famous girlfriend. You have
been recruited by Donatella Versace to design for Versus: What is the
most rock n’ roll way you could announce that?
At last month’s Versus show in London Zayn Malik–for that new
designer, of course, is indeed he–came up with a near-perfect answer.
This was not to show up to the interview (held jointly with Vogue.com
and the New York Times) planned by Versace’s team as the big reveal.
Immediately after the show, the brand’s first since the departure of
Anthony Vaccarello to Saint Laurent, Malik was due backstage with
Donatella Versace to hold forth on the new capsule, ZAYN X VERSUS, that
he will co-design and which will go on sale in May. He will also star in
two Versus campaigns next year. Some of the profits from the
collection, which will be both womenswear and men’s, will go to charity.
In this age of carefully-crafted image-making, all in the name of
commercial gain, it was rather refreshing that Malik, 23, opted to
no-show post-show. Instead he disappeared with Gigi Hadid. Respect!
Plus we had the incomparable Donatella Versace to talk to. As a
rebellious soul herself, she seemed entirely unfazed by Malik’s exit
into the London night.
“I love London!” she said: “If I could move, I would move. But I can’t, right? I can’t get a visa!”
Donatella, of course, stays domiciled in Milan to oversee the family
business. And here, only infinitesimally edited, is what she said about
recruiting Malik to its ranks.
Versace: “My brother gave Versus to me 20 years ago. Versus was
always close to music, linked always. The first Vesus show, the Foo
Fighters performed live. And they were young, just beginning. Prince
performed another show. Lenny Kravitz performed another show. So it was
always where rock and roll and fashion start to meet. And we always
called Versus the “Rock Soul of Versace,” of the Versace family. The
rebel, the tribe, for the boy or girl who wants to dare…”
“Why I want Zayn now: He can make me talk to his followers. I want to
listen to the language, I want to learn. I want to know what they
think, what they like. This is a new generation, [which] if I do not go
through someone like Zayn I will never reach.”
How did you meet Zayn?
Versace: “I met him when he was in One Direction.”
Were you a One Direction fan?
Versace: “NO!.. [laughs]..no!… But I love Kate Moss, she
forced me! She liked One Direction, I don’t know why!… And Zayn really
stood out for me because he was the one who talked the least and did not
put so much emphasis on himself. And that is what I liked about him.”
So then at what point did you decide though that he was the perfect person for this?
Versace: “When I saw him with Gigi. The way he treats Gigi, like a gentleman: you don’t see this any more.”
Gigi has been front and center [at Versace recently]. Was this a solidifying factor?
“She [Gigi] didn’t say anything. I just saw them together. I went for
dinner and I was impressed how mature he was, in a way, how much of a
gentleman he was… They are such a nice couple. Both good hearts, open
hearts… Tomorrow we start work together… I asked tonight, ‘what do you
like?’ And he said: ‘bold! I like the brand bold!’
“Can I say something? I think he is smart to do this together with me
now. Not because it is me, but because many rock stars they do their
own line in fashion which is not relevant… you know, just a license. For
him, this will be real fashion.”
Anthony Vacarello’s time at Versus has finished, so this is a breathing season.
Versace: “It’s the beginning of a new era for Versus. I think of a
lot of collaborations with music people, rock stars, more than
So this will become a regular rhythm for you [and Versus]?
Versace: “Yeah! I have a great team working with me, designer team,
my daughter too, Allegra, and two more guys…. It’s teamwork… you need a
good team. And you need to give freedom to the team to tell you what you
You’re exploring other musicians [to possibly collaborate with]?
Versace: “For now it’s Zayn, and then we see.”
So it will be like taking the Versus part of Versace on tour every year?
Versace: Laughs: “I’d love that! Can I go on tour?”
Thus the future of Versus might not be to continue the model of
designer collaborations most recently seen with Vaccarello, Jonathan
Anderson, and Christopher Kane–which proved excellent career moves for
all three–but to go on tour every year with a different musician
instead. During the interview, at my mention of Versus going “on tour,”
Versace began wistfully recalling Guns & Roses gigs when she and
Stephanie Seymour hung out backstage.
The musical stars of today might not quite match the blood and
thunder don’t-give-a-damnedness of Axl, Slash, and the rest–for these
are far milder times. Yet for a mainstream 21st century pop musician,
Malik has lived up to his “bold!” agenda. From bailing on the world’s
biggest boy band, to wearing that fabulous robot-armed Versace suit to
the Met Ball this May, to not turning up to this interview, he displays
genuine–not manufactured–independence. Eventually, we did hear from
Zayn, via email. Here’s what the email said.
Malik: “It is hard to pinpoint a specific time I first encountered
Versace or Donatella. I was four when her brother passed, so Donatella
has always visually represented Versace to me. Versace just seeped into
my consciousness growing up, possibly through many of my biggest music
influences; Prince in the red Versace suit, for example, it’s a part of
fashion culture and is iconic. Whether you’re interested in fashion or
not you know of Donatella, she is iconic.”
Malik: “I first collaborated with her when she approached me to dress
me for the Met Ball and the relationship developed from there. When
they made that suit for me I knew it was a brand that wouldn’t be
intimidated by big ideas.”
Malik: “The thing I most want to do with this opportunity is learn.
Learn about how the process works, learn to be confident in sharing my
ideas and of course be part of a process that I feel I genuinely
contribute to. I hope that I can develop a collection with Donatella
that I can truly say reflects who I am and what I like.”