From her ultra-blond hair to her super-high heels, Donatella Versace uses every inch of her being to embrace glamour, and she wasn't going to put the Versace name on anything _ and certainly not a collection for global fast-fashion retailer H&M _ that didn't do the same.
The clothes that debuted Tuesday night on the catwalk lived up to the hype surrounding the limited-edition collection as well as Versace's own glitzy standards: There was a metallic disco dress, a studded leather bomber jacket and an animal-print-meets-tropical-sunset tank dress for women; and a hot-pink suit, studded tuxedo-style shorts and a palm-tree, second-skirt T-shirt for men.
The runway at the huge and historic Pier 57 in Manhattan's Meatpacking District attracted a crowd that included Blake Lively, Uma Thurman and Jessica Alba. Nicki Minaj and Prince took their front-row seats just before the show started, and then emerged on stage at the after-party that recreated a Miami nightclub. Minaj did swap the green feather fascinator she wore to the show for a crystal-covered trucker hat when it came time to perform.
"She's a legend. She's amazing," Minaj said of Versace on the red carpet.
She added: "I said in an interview recently I remember Biggie Smalls rap about Versace and wanting to know what that was. So I told Donatella today, you don't understand how many little girls are jumping for joy now that you're introducing a more affordable line. So I'm just happy to be here."
Swedish fashion chain Hennes & Mauritz AB has partnered with big names before, including Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz, and Target Corp.'s joint line with the Italian knitwear brand Missoni earlier this fall caused a frenzy, causing its website to crash the first day items were offered. None had a launch quite like this, though.
Versace said in a backstage interview that she thinks it's this sort of production, coupled with clothes embellished with sequins, studs, leather and lace, will serve as the antidote for the struggling economy. "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 recognizable, that stuck to their DNA, and our DNA is glamour."
She added: "This is a very joyful collection."
Tropical floral patterns were splashed on tight leggings and tunic tops, and heart-print dresses were covered with beaded fringe. Many models wore hot-pink strappy sandals and carried printed handbags with the South Beach motif and Versace's Medusa logo.
Many of the styles were updated (and, with top prices of $299, less expensive) interpretations of signature looks of the house as it was first designed by the late Gianni Versace and for the last 14 years by his sister Donatella. "I really wanted iconic moments of Versace," she said. There even was a black dress with gold hardware reminiscent of the label's safety-pin gown made famous by Elizabeth Hurley.
"I've always been such a fan. The dresses that she makes, all the things she makes, they're always such amazing shapes for women," said Lively. "And she always has such unexpected things between the colors and the patterns, the detail, the beading, it's always shocking _ and I love that."
Versace said she thinks head-turning styles are the right introduction to the next-generation shoppers _ the ones who know how to mix top-tier designer labels with inexpensive trendy pieces.
"Young people like to dress up and look cool." Versace said.
With 20-somethings as children, Versace said she has done her fair share of shopping with them at stores such as H&M. "I know this customer. I know what they want. They follow music, fashion. For the new generation, it's all pop culture."
She pays attention to it, too, she said, and she mines it for inspiration. "Creativity comes from quantity and quality of information. I want to know everything: politics, music, movies. Only this way can you come up with each new collection."
Associated Press writer Nicole Evatt contributed to this report.
Samantha Critchell tweets fashion at http://twitter.com/ap_fashion