Donatella Versace in 24 Hours

The fashion designer traces her steps around Milan

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
The fashion designer traces her steps around Milan 
My Reading Room
7hours of sleep, 1 pet dog named Audrey, 1,000,000 followers (and counting) on Instagram.

6:30AM The alarm rings and I’m up. I need at least seven hours of sleep to feel fresh for the day. 

6:33AM I check my phone and then it’s all about getting ready for the day ahead. Starting the day with a workout is always a good idea. My Pilates instructor is fierce and she almost kills me every morning!

7:00AM I have breakfast and, like most Italians, I am sustained by espressos. It doesn’t take me long to get ready each morning. I multi-task and my assistant is already with me, going through the important issues of the day.

7:55AM I wear Versace—always. When I design, I’m always thinking about what women need at different points throughout the day, and this is how I think about my own personal style. When I work, I usually wear a black top with black pants so that I’m ready for all the appointments I have during the day. For evenings or special occasions, that is when I add colour and glamour. I own countless pairs of shoes! Try to imagine my shoe wardrobe, and then double it. That might give you an idea of how many shoes I have.

8:45AM I’m ready to leave the house to go to work, but not without my Versace Palazzo Empire bag. It’s so soft and supple, and yet it is perfect for the way I live my life. The bag has been to so many places with me, and it’s got so many travels yet to come.

8:50AM I go to the office by car. Milan is a city of secrets. There are some Italian cities that reveal themselves to you easily, like the splendours of Rome or the beauty of Venice. Milan is more hidden, but that does not mean there is nothing to discover. Much of its beauty lies behind closed doors, in galleries, museums, or in the courtyards and gardens of private homes. It means that I don’t have any one favourite part—my idea of Milan is like a tapestry of amazing places that form a whole.

9:30AM I reach the office and there’s no such thing as a typical day! My office is decorated in white, so that I can think with a clear mind. But this is not ordinary white, I cannot work in a bare room. It has to be white with presence, with life; so think: White with gold trim, with elegance and passion. I have pictures around the room of those that I love, for inspiration and positivity. My office really reflects who I am and my emotions. This is where my emotions stay.

10:15AM I try to get business done first thing in the morning so that my mind can be free to create. Fashion has always been my life. There’s no alternative, no plan B. Inspiration always comes when I see, hear or feel something, so it’s always unexpected. My creative process is very much an evolution of ideas. Fashion is more than just trends or short-term ideas. It is about the needs of women today and the complexity of our lives. It’s very continual—it never stops. Fashion for me is not a history lesson, it is not about the past. It is about giving women the ability to show themselves and their power to the world.  

11:00AM My schedule is always super-busy, and I am very decisive. Once I have made a decision, that’s it. I am very passionate about my work and I speak my mind. I have a need for debate, and I surround myself with people whose opinions differ from mine. I am the one who decides but I like to hear other opinions, it’s important that my team members feel that they can say everything they want. Fashion is a very demanding industry. In the lead up to shows, we work very long hours, for days on end. It is particularly intense before a show. Everyone works so hard, but hopefully they have fun too. I’d hate it if the studio was silent. There’s music, there’s laughter, and there’s the dedication to do the best job we can. I want everyone to feel part of the wider Versace family… I want this good feeling to live in every piece we create so that when you wear Versace, you feel it too.

1:00PM Lunch is about eating healthy. As with everything else, I like change and I like new things. But I also respect traditions, and Bice in Milan has the most incredible food. The waiter knows your order before you speak!

3:15PM The Internet and social media have changed everything. For many people, they find it terrifying. They want everything in fashion to stay the same, as if smartphones had never been invented. I am the opposite. I read the news both on paper and on my gadgets. I always want to know what’s new and fresh. That is the key—to always be interested, to always question everything, to never stick with what you know. I cannot remember a time when fashion has been as exciting as it is now. I love Instagram! I was so touched and humbled when I reached one million followers. It’s so much fun to be able to give an insight into my world, and I love to read the comments that people from everywhere leave on my account.

6:30PM I like to end the day with everything finished so that we can start the next day fresh.

7:30PM Dinner’s usually around this time, and one of my guilty pleasures is watching TV shows. If I like a new show, I won’t stop until I’ve watched every single episode. I also love movies starring Angelina Jolie. She always brings life to incredible and strong female characters. My favourite book is Ettore Sottsass by Philippe Thomè. All my life I have been obsessed with Sottsass, the Italian architect and designer, and the Memphis Group he founded. I love everything about his work. It is modest, optimistic, humorous, functional and intelligent. The designs in this book make me feel proud to be Italian.

9:00PM I don’t bring home work to do because my home is the place where I can be myself and unwind from the stresses of being an Artistic Director. A perfect weekend to me is just relaxing at home with my family, friends and my dog, Audrey. Audrey is a true Versace. Even though she is a Jack Russell, it’s as if she has the Versace DNA in her. She is always with me, even at model’s fittings, and I trust her opinion about everything. She is passionate, stubborn, very individual, very loving. What’s the point of having a dog if you can’t spoil it? And of course, she only wears Versace. She’s got taste.

11:30PM I settle into bed. My bedroom is my sanctuary. It is very calming, the place where my mind can rest, to prepare myself for the next day. I sleep on Versace Home sheets, of course! We do have some beautiful bed lines, such as the new Vasmara range or the Medusa Signature silk bed linen set. I have lots of pillows on my bed—you can never have too many pillows!