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NEW YORK With New York as her world stage, Donatella Versace debuted her newest Versus Versace collection, designed in a one-off collaboration with J.W. Anderson, with a stimulating bash for 1,300 guests that was a well-choreographed three-ring circus of sensory experiences with opposing stages creating an immersive effect for a trio of performers and fashion shows.
Heidi Klum, Jaime King, Darren Criss, Theophilus London, Hayden Panettiere, Sky Ferreira, and even Lady Gaga—who watched from a perch on the mezzanine—were just a handful of the celebrities at the 69th Regiment Armory on May 15. The highly anticipated event was produced by KCD under the direction of principal and president Julie Mannion, vice president of production Campbell Bromberg, and the senior team, along with creative consultants David Bradshaw and Marla Weinhoff.
“They wanted this idea of an event where content was king, where there was something happening all the time,” said Mannion. “Attendees were bombarded with stimulus—a reflection of what young people want to see these days.” Versace and KCD initiated talks last September and planning was in full swing by November. The actual build started Sunday before the Wednesday-night affair and tear down was completed the next night.
Guests aside, helping to fill the 35,000 square feet of space was one rather conspicuous backstage, the centerpiece of the event and what will serve as a unifying element for all subsequent global unveilings. “The simulation here lies in seeing from the inside out and what's happening in live time,” said Mannion.
Alluding to the event's dark aesthetic, Mannion noted that the genesis came from Mark Leckey's 1999 “Fiorruchi Made Me Hardcore” video. “It served as the inspiration video for the lighting, the feel, the vibe—and it did have a bit of that rave feel to it,” she said. “The night was not meant to feel like typical Versace glamour; this was meant to have an undone energy.”
Opposing stages not only helped fill the space, but also eliminated the need for downtime to change performance stages. “Donatella wanted the room to always feel live and never be static—the idea that there's action over here and there,” said Mannion. Choreography was also taken into account, with models in one set walking directly outward and onto the stage while, in another, models walked around the inner periphery of the box.
“There were many moving parts that had to be perfectly timed to the minute,” said Mannion. “Most people did not see the entire city we practically had backstage, where assets were captured at every aspect of this event.” Indeed, behind the scenes there was a portrait room, a screening room for all the talent and models, and a backstage interview area—all of which was being simultaneously captured by creative agency Spring Studios to use the event itself as a vehicle. The resulting ping-pong effect was stimulation everywhere.
Following the shows and performances, DJ Maxwell kept the crowd dancing well into the night. As party favors, guests were given takeout bags of doughnut holes.