Donatella Versace on Sharing Unreleased Prince Music at Milan Fashion Show: 'I Was in Awe of Him' (Exclusive)

Prince Donatella Versace 2016
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Prince and Donatella Versace at the Versace for H&M Fashion Show and Party in New York City on Nov. 8, 2011. 

The fashion world has been paying tribute to Prince in a variety of ways, from social-media posts to magazine covers, since his death on April 21. But this weekend, Donatella Versace honored the star in a way very few could: by sharing never-before-heard Prince tracks during the Versace menswear presentation at Milan Fashion Week.

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Versace, who counted Prince as one of her “closest friends,” pulled from a personal archive of songs he had sent her -- some as recently as five months ago -- to create the soundtrack for the show. The designer chatted with Billboard about using her show as a way to share “incredible music from a dear and much missed friend.”

What made you decide to use these songs?

My heart was broken by the news of Prince’s passing -- I am still in shock. I wanted to express my love and admiration for my friend who I miss so much. Celebrating him and his music at my menswear show seemed like the best way. 

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What were the circumstances of Prince gifting you these songs?

Prince was always writing and recording, even if it was just a late-night jam at Paisley Park. He had been sending me songs for years -- it was his way of communicating. Just hearing his voice again makes me smile.


Fine knit polo shirts and technical cycling shorts add modern reality. #VersaceLive #MFW #Versace Men’s SS17 show

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How did you decide the order of the songs and which ones to include?

Fashion shows have their own rhythm and pacing. The music has to be very specific, and we always work hard on the order so that there is the right emotion or feeling at the right time. I knew that I wanted to finish on one of my favorite Prince songs, "The Future," because I believe in never looking back.

What did you love most about Prince's sartorial expression?

I love men who can dress beyond rules and codes. Prince set his own rules and did what he wanted -- he wore high heels, showed his body, chose strong color, did whatever pleased him. He loved to play with fashion, to provoke and shock. I was in awe of him, always.


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What do you think about Prince's lasting influence on fashion, especially for men?

Prince showed men how they could use clothing to express themselves, to make a statement, to be bold. He showed men to not take themselves so seriously, have fun and to love life while you can.

What does it mean to you to share these songs with the world?

It was a privilege and an honor to have Prince as my friend, and so it was my privilege to be able to share them with the audience. I wanted people to hear how playful he was, how joyous, how creative, how pure a genius. The biggest tribute you can pay to him is to play his music, and to keep his memory alive.