You’d be forgiven for thinking that Donatella Versace had a twin, or at the very least a younger sister. Perhaps even a clone, cooked up in a Versace laboratory. Such is the striking likeness to be found in the newly unveiled images for the latest Versace campaign, featuring brand spokeswoman Lady Gaga. On the surface, the match is an obvious one; the house of Versace has long upheld an image of sheer opulence, while Lady Gaga’s music (and wider brand) has explored the themes of fame, wealth and excess since her first album dropped all the way back in 2008.
The campaign is entitled “Lady Gaga For Versace” and includes images shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. Says Donatella herself: “I am honoured that my friend Lady Gaga is the face of our new Versace campaign… I wanted to capture her true beauty and spirit in images that are elegant and alluring. She is like family to me, the embodiment of the Versace DNA.” And it would certainly appear that the admiration is mutual; Gaga’s new album ARTPOP includes a track entitled “Donatella”, which she has described as a love letter to the designer.
But, while Gaga does a worthy impression of Donatella in the campaign, I can’t shake the feeling that it remains just that; mimicry. Songs like “The Fame”, “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” and “Money Honey” might purport to celebrate material things, often to a painfully vacuous degree, but Gaga has also fought hard to position herself as a champion of all things underground, “mother monster” to the freaks and underdogs and outsiders. Is it possible to stand steadily with a foot in both worlds?
The brand values of Versace (luxury, elegance, allure) are clear, and what the company gets out of the deal is evident; the instant recognition that comes with having a global superstar on your side. But Gaga is an accomplished shape-shifter with a constantly evolving personal brand, and so her objectives remain somewhat oblique; perhaps this is just a pay day for her, or a genuine homage to her pal Donatella. Personally, I’ll be waiting for the day when she reveals it was all an intricate and expensive piece of performance art, with a message that is only fully intelligible to her.