If Showgirls was made today, its heroine, the plucky stripper Nomi, would probably still not know how to properly pronounce Versace. However, she may have toted around a Michael Kors satchel that she picked up for 30 percent off at a Macy’s Labor Day sale.
Both designers were linked on Sunday, when Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera speculated that Michael Kors may buy the storied Italian label for $2 billion euros.
Donatella Versace, sister of the line’s late founder, Gianni, currently owns the independent house along with family members Santo Versace and Allegra Versace Beck.
Per WWD, Tiffany & Co. LVMH, PVH Corp, and Tapestry were also speculated to be flirting with the idea of a sale, which is expected to be announced in the coming days. Donatella Versace has reportedly called a staff meeting on Tuesday to reveal more details of the acquisition.
The Milan-based designer Versace (pronounced Versach-EH for all you Nomi’s) has always been synonymous with luxury, right down to its supermodel-filled runway shows and placement in blingy hip hop videos.
Michael Kors, however, has a trickier reputation. Euphemistically described as “affordable luxury,” the American designer has cemented itself as a status symbol of suburban fashion.
Kors (the man) has worked in fashion since 1981, launching a line at Bergdorf's and serving as Celine's creative director in 1997. It wasn't until he created the ready-to-wear and accessories spinoff MICHAEL by Michael Kors that the brand earned widespread international recognition.
For many, Michael Kors has an aspirational, but not exorbitant price point. His handbags, especially, have a heavy presence in department stores and discount chains. Kors is often seen in his trademark black t-shirt and blazer and also played the self-promotion game as a judge on Bravo’s popular reality show competition Project Runway.
Because of this, Michael Kors the brand is often described as the “pumpkin spice” of the fashion world. Its logo—a gilded MK—verges on gaudy. Then again, so does Versace’s decadent Medusa medallion. The difference is that Michael Kors is omnipresent in the retail world, which risks overexposure.
Migos sang “Versace, Versace, Versace” rather than repeating Michael Kors’ name three times, because the Versace brand reeks of exclusivity.
The woman in front of you at Starbucks may have a Michael Kors watch strapped to her wrist, but she probably isn’t wearing a $3,000 baroque-printed Versace kaftan.
Michael Kors, like many retailers, has had a tough few years as shopper’s habits change. While Kors initially thrived off of discounting its merchandise, Forbes speculated that this model backfired when many shoppers opted to stop paying full price when items drop, waiting for sales instead.
In 2017, Kors’ sales dipped 11 percent, the brand closed 100 of its 125 boutiques, and items were pulled department stores shelves in an effort to reduce discounting.
In July of last year, Michael Kors’ bought Jimmy Choo. The move helped the brand regain some footing. According to Michael Kors’ financial results for the fiscal 2019 first quarter, the brand’s first quarter total revenue increased to 26.3 percent to $1.20 billion. Jimmy Choo contributed $172.7 million to that figure.
If the Versace consolidation rumors are true, then Michael Kors is not only building an empire but rebranding its own image. While members of the Versace family are expected to maintain an undefined role in the company, this acquisition means that one of the last independently owned Italian fashion houses has gone corporate.
This is just the latest news in the dramatic saga of Versace the brand, founded by Gianni Versace in 1978. His elaborate designs were well-known for celebrating the female form, represented best by a black dress Elizabeth Hurley wore in 1994 that was held together by safety pins.
After Gianni Versace’s murder in 1997, Donatella and Santo Versace took over. Sales faltered in the 2000s, and 20 percent of the company was sold to Blackstone in 2014. (Reps for Versace, Blackstone, and Michael Kors gave no comment to The Daily Beast.)
Though some on Twitter bemoaned the house’s rumored sale to Kors, there are strong similarities between the brands. Both have curated strong images led by identifiable figures, whether it’s Kors with his oversized dark sunglasses or Donatella with her stick straight blond hair.
Much like Michael Kors, Versace knows what its audience wants. Dresses will be slinky with cutouts, slits, and a figure-hugging silhouette. Gilded patterns abound, whether they be animal-printed or Grecian. Buckles are visible, and leather is liberally used in everything from trench coats to skirt suits.
In a 2017 Milan fashion week show, the original Versace muses Cindy Crawford, Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, and Helena Christensen reunited to walk down the runway just like old times. The event may have been a memorable, nostalgic way to mark the twentieth anniversary of Versace’s death, but it was not exactly innovative. A new owner could mean a new shot of life for a label that really needs it.