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House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival [Paperback]

Deborah Ball
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Jan. 4 2011
Versace. The very name conjures up images of outrageous glamour and bold sexuality, opulence and daring. All of course true, but only half the story. Versace is also the legacy of a great creative genius from a poor, backward part of southern Italy who transformed the fashion world through his intuitive understanding of both women and how a changing culture influenced the way they wanted to dress. The first book in English about the legendary designer, House of Versace shows how Gianni Versace, with his flamboyant sister Donatella at his side, combined his virtuosic talent and extraordinary ambition to almost single-handedly create the celebrity culture we take for granted today. 

Gianni Versace was at the height of his creative powers when he was murdered in Miami Beach. The story was front page news around the world and the manhunt for his killer a media obsession. His beloved sister Donatella demanded no less than a funeral befitting an assassinated head-of-state to be held in Milan’s magnificent cathedral. In what was the ultimate fashion show, the world’s rich and beautiful – Princess Dianna, Elton John, Carla Bruni, Naomi Campbell, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Anna Wintour and others – gathered to mourn a man already considered one of fashion’s great pioneers.   
Deborah Ball, a long-time Milan correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, conducted hundreds of interviews with Versace family members, Gianni Versace’s lovers and business rivals, models such as Naomi Campbell whom he helped shoot to international stardom and fashion industry icons, including Anna Wintour, the legendary editor of Vogue. 

Ball vividly recounts the behind-the scenes struggles – both creative and business – of Donatella as she stepped out of her brother’s long shadow and took control of the House of Versace. The book offers the first inside look at the enormous challenges Donatella faced in living up to Gianni’s genius, her struggle with a drug habit, her battles with her brother Santo and the mystery of why Gianni left control of his house to Donatella’s young daughter, Allegra. House of Versace is a compelling, highly readable tale of rise from obscurity, a painful fall and ultimate redemption as the Versace empire returned to health – for now. 

Bringing together fashion, celebrity, business drama, jet-set lifestyles, and a notorious crime, House of Versace is an old-fashioned page-turner about a subject of enduring fascination.

From the Hardcover edition.

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House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival + House Of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed
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Product Description


"Meticulously researched…answers more questions about the family behind the high-flying brand than most of us could think to ask. The Wall Street Journal writer's account … helps humanize a legendary family.--The Wall Street Journal

"Deborah Ball got the story. Thanks to an impressive degree of access to both Santo and Donatella, as well as to a host of their friends and family members, this Wall Street Journal writer describes in riveting detail what the siblings were thinking behind their grief-stricken visages."--The Washington Post

"Readers may feel as if they are breaking through the sequined barrier that has sheltered the family from the world's eye; that the shroud of mystery around them is finally lifted. The result is a read that is genuinely honest and riveting."--The Associated Press

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

A native of Boston, DEBORAH BALL has been a business journalist in Europe for more than 15 years. For 12 years, she has been a reporter for the Wall Street Journal in Milan, London and Zurich, covering a wide variety of business, finance and political topics. Between 1999 and 2002, she covered the European luxury goods sector for the Journal. Ms. Ball currently lives between Italy and Switzerland with her husband Fabrizio.

From the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but cries for more photographs April 17 2010
By Dia
This is an exceptional read and I enjoyed it thoroughly. If you have any interest in the fashion business, marketing or Italy, you will not be disappointed reading this vivid, well-researched and well-written story. The only reason I am not giving it 5 stars is that it is very light on photographs and the subject matter just cries for more photography -- of his fashions, of the principals involved, of the lush homes and locations described. I had to resort to Google to fill in the gaps but that didn't satisfy completely. Otherwise, terrific book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  40 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The full tale, well told March 16 2010
By Bradley F. Smith - Published on
A WSJ biz writer who lived in Europe for 15 years wrote this full scale business bio of the Versace tragedy, and it's a great read in all its pathos. She received full cooperation from everyone except Allegra Versace, daughter of Donatella and heiress to the house of Versace because her late uncle willed it all to her when she was just 12. Donatella's drug use is not spared here, but she received even-handed treatment as we see exactly what she faced when Gianni Versace was murdered in Miami and left her to replace him as the designing genius. She wasn't up to the task, but she muddled through. The story ends recently, but the tale of Versace is still unfolding. The main flaw is the relative lack of good photos. We get several generic shots of Casa Casuarina, the Ocean Drive mansion where Versace was shot. But there are none of the Milan atelier where all the clothes are designed and where a lot of this tale takes place.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping story, well-written and well-told March 12 2010
By Jennifer Clark - Published on
The Versace family's story is riveting. It's basically a rags to riches story with celebrities, rock 'n' roll, and murder mixed in. On top of that, there's a moving finale, when Donatella descends into drugs, nearly trashes the company, and then fights her way back from the depths and emerges again to live another day. It would be a happy ending, except that the company is still struggling and Versace's heir, Allegra, is still grappling with the fallout from it all.
In less sure hands, the over-the-top material would overwhelm the author. Deborah Ball does an excellent job of capturing the drama and pathos while still getting the facts straight. The result is a behind-the-scenes peek at life in the fast lane that at the same time offers insight into the characthers' inner lives. The book uses the family history as a way of looking at the changes in the fashion world in the past decades, and the impact that Gianni had on it. So anyone looking for a perspective on the fashion business, and for insight on how the fashion business has affected consumer tastes, would find food for thought here. And it doesn't have the warmed-over feel of a mish-mash of old press clippings, because it's clearly well researched. The author's time as a fashion reporter in Italy clearly helps make the book authentic.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars House of Versace is FantastiC! April 3 2010
By D. Baird - Published on
I just finished House of Versace and enjoyed it tremendously. The research must
have been mammoth but it showed in the brilliant text. I also loved the writing
style. Often in either a well-researched piece or something dealing with fashion
and/or business, I become overwhelmed or bored. I was neither. One of the best
biographies I ever read was Charles Shields' Mockingbird: a Portrait of Harper
Lee. I felt after finishing the book about a complex and amazing woman that
Shields took the perfect measure of praise and honest criticism. It is a true
and realistic book that should have made Ms Lee pleased that he chose to tackle
her biography. I felt EXACTLY the same when I finished this fantastic book.
Gianni should be honored that Deborah Ball chose to do his biography in such a
careful and fair manner
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crash course in fashion and business Feb. 27 2010
By Julie M. Nolan - Published on
I loved this book and was sad when I finished it. I thought the book was very well written. It may have something to do with the 220 interviews that the author conducted in order to really give you a clear picture and accurate timeline of the Versace family and the fashion world. It should be required reading for anyone going into the field of fashion or marketiing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The V Family Jan. 29 2014
By coffe Di - Published on
Verified Purchase
Good read, salacious and somewhat juicy without being tasteless. Quite a dynamic between the three sibs in a southern Italian frame of mind. Think striving to be the best when others think you don't measure up because of where you are from. Working hard always got someone somewhere and that is the moral of their story.
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