It seemed like an ordinary Tuesday in peaceful Miami Beach, Florida, a city famous for its colorful Art Deco architecture and vibrant arts and culture scene.
On the morning of July 15, 1997, Miami was struck by an unfortunate event that left a mark in fashion history. It involved a mad man and the two bullets that took the life of then 50-year-old Italian powerhouse designer, Gianni Versace.
Image source: Vanity Fair
Born on December 2, 1946 and the son of a dressmaker mother, Versace would go on to build an eponymous fashion empire that spans clothing, makeup, fragrances, and home accessories. Friendly with Hollywood’s who’s who, he saw his creations worn by the rich and famous on red carpets, award shows, and the covers of glossy magazines.
His peers described him as a great creator. In 2012, Giorgio Armani recalled Versace’s eccentric personality. “Fifteen years after his death, what I remember of Gianni Versace? His incredible exuberance, a sense of happiness that mixes everything—ideas, trends, memories, art—with a sort of nonchalant vitality.”
Versace was shot and killed on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion after he went for a morning walk on Ocean Drive. The man who shot him, Andrew Cunanan, casually walked away from the scene after firing his gun at the designer.
The 27-year-old Cunanan was already in the police’s suspect list days prior to the assassination. He was a suspect in four other murders in three states and had gone into Miami to pull the trigger on his last victim.
Cunanan took his own life on a houseboat eight days later. To this day, no one knows his reasons for killing the fashion icon.
Said Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Barreto, “I don’t know that we are ever going to know the answers.”
Image source: Business Insider
About 2,000 people (many of them his favorite models and celebrity friends) showed up for Versace’s funeral at Duomo di Milano. His ashes were laid to rest in the family’s vault in Moltrasio cemetery near Lake Como.
Today, the designer’s empire is owned by American designer Michael Kors, with the Versace family as share holders, and Gianni’s sister Donatella keeping her role as creative director.
Image source: Blue Win
In the end, the story of Gianni Versace tells us that even the wealthiest, most powerful people are just as vulnerable to the ravages of ill will.