MECE Students Learn about Innovation in the Versace Archives

09 March 2018
Fashion designer Gianni Versace rose to prominence in the early 1990s with rock-’n’-roll-inspired couture worn by supermodels, pop stars and even Princess Diana.

Since Gianni’s death in 1997, the Versace fashion house has continued to create popular and envelope-pushing designs. To this day, fashion designers and artists draw inspiration from Gianni Versace’s iconic work, and he is one of the most well-known and influential designers of the past 50 years.

Students in Audencia Business School’s MSc in Management and Entrepreneurship in the Creative Economy (MECE) programme recently met with Antonio Masciariello, company heritage and special projects manager of the Gianni Versace Historical Archives. Invited by Professor Latchezar Hristov as part of the MECE programme’s Marketing of Innovation in the Creative Economy module, Masciariello spoke to the students about the importance of archives to the future of the creative industries – fashion in particular.

Gianni Versace’s outsized legacy makes his archive of extreme importance, Masciariello explained in his 29 January lecture at Audencia, which was followed by a lively Q&A session with students. Masciariello spoke about his work with Versace’s digital and physical archives, which involves preserving and cataloguing, as well as working with brands, designers and celebrities interested in Versace’s designs.

“For us, it was very insightful to see how the luxury industry works with archives,” says Janine Boehm, a student in the programme. “Since Versace realised the importance of having an archive, the team put a lot of effort into filing every item. Not only clothes – but also pictures of photo shoots, drawings [and] advertising campaigns.”

The MECE students met with Masciariello shortly after returning from International Winter School in Scotland, where they completed projects on the topic of heritage and its relationship to creative industries. Masciariello’s talk, Boehm notes, “gave us an opportunity to see ‘heritage’ in a different context”. 

As Masciariello told the class, archives are useful for far more than just historical preservation. By keeping work like Versace’s organised and accessible, the archive acts as a resource that other designers and brands can draw from in interesting new ways. Masciariello offered the example of retailer H&M, which created a capsule collection with Versace fashion house for its stores. An H&M designer spent time at the Versace archive to get a retrospective of the brand’s designs and build a foundation of ideas for the collection. In this instance, Boehm notes, “[H&M was] working with fabrics and patterns that haven't been used for a long time. By working with Versace’s ‘heritage’ codes, they can restore and adapt them for today’s life.”

The archive also proved useful when pop star Lady Gaga expressed interest in wearing one of Gianni Versace’s vintage designs for a concert. The archive was able to loan her a skirt, thereby introducing one of the fashion house’s heritage designs to a new, young audience.

These stories, Masciariello explained to the students, demonstrate the ways heritage plays into innovation in the creative industries. And while the term “archive” might conjure up images of a dusty museum, the reality is much more dynamic. “It is, as Antonio Masciariello said, a ‘living archive,’” Boehm notes. “It is used every day – designers come in and get inspired by forgotten or long-unused materials, patterns and so on. Keeping objects means having a narrative.”

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