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Baroness magazine Donatella Versace issue two
Courtesy of Baroness by Sarah Baker

Donatella Versace reinvents the scandalous soap opera bitch for Baroness

The legendary designer takes over the magazine with a scandal-soaked, Versace-draped editorial inspired by Jackie Collins and trashy daytime TV

Imagine what it would be like if Donatella Versace decided to direct a trashy, daytime soap opera. Not only would it feature some killer storylines, but it’s highly likely the costumes would be pretty savage, too. Deception, treachery, and lies, all wrapped up in Medusa-emblazoned Versace silks and dripping with gold chains: what’s not to love?   

Since social media and instant access to the world wide web has rotted our brains to be point we can no longer focus on anything for longer than a few seconds, though, thankfully you needn’t concentrate too hard on what said show might entail – because Baroness magazine has done the hard work for you. 

With Donatella herself joining the team as guest editor this season, alongside performance artist Sarah Baker, when it came to the second issue of the publication, inspiration jumped straight out of the scandal-soaked pages of a Jackie Collins-esque novel.  

“What would my character be like in a Jackie Collins book? A femme fatale… Obviously!” – Donatella Versace

A brief outline of the story: Baker takes the role of American music mogul and record label boss Angelina Marina, who receives a blackmail note accusing her of falsely claiming she wrote the lyrics to her chart-topping bop “Spritz Me With Your Love”. Initially believing it to be from the Baroness (aka iconic OG supermodel Helena Christensen), in fact, the note is the work of supposedly-dead lothario Angelo, who intends to take Angelina for everything she’s got. 

Does he get away with it? Well, no spoilers, but obviously not. Dispelling the tired ‘mega-bitch’ trope that plagues popular culture when it comes to powerful women, instead, Angelina and the Baroness work to reveal the truth and bring Angelo down. Naturally, everyone involved is swathed in Versace, with the images doubling as the Italian house’s 2019 holiday campaign. 

Founded by Matthew Holroyd and Dazed’s own editor-in-chief Isabella Burley, the second, Donatella-directed issue of Baroness is now on shelves. Here, we catch up with the iconic Versace designer, as she fills us in on what it was like taking the magazine’s reins this season, which Jackie Collins quote resonates with her most, and who she’d play were she to join the cast of a ridiculously OTT soap opera. 

What was it like stepping into the role of guest editor for Baroness?  

Donatella Versace: In the past, I’ve acted as a guest editor for other, more ‘mainstream’ titles, but this was a completely different experience. With a title like Baroness, you’re really able to let your creativity run free. It has also let me do one of my favourite things, which is work with another creative mind (Sarah Baker). I love the whirlwind of ideas that we all have and then the process of creating a narrative that is representative of Versace and of the artist at the same time. It seems like an easy thing to accomplish, but when you come from a brand with the kind of iconography Versace has, and you work with a visual artist such as Sarah, the common ground isn’t always immediately apparent. In this case, for us, the use of irony in the approach of a genre such as a soap opera worked perfectly for both of us. 

What is is about Sarah Baker’s work that so inspires you?  

Donatella Versace: She’s unapologetic, and has a willingness to experiment and see things from a different perspective.

We love the OTT, Jackie Collins-esque inspiration behind it all. Do you have a favourite Jackie book? Or perhaps a quote?  

Donatella Versace: There is one quote that, in a way, I find still very relevant today because it incites all of us to be our true selves. I think it goes: “I don’t like being lumped in with anybody. I like to think I stand on my own.” And there’s also another one, which I think is very me: “Looking back, I am not sorry about anything I did.” Life is a rollercoaster. There are good times, there are bad times, and there are amazing times. You go through them, you learn, and you move on. There’s no point in lingering too much in the past. 

If you were to star in a Jackie Collins novel or a soap opera, what would your character be like? 

Donatella Versace: A femme fatale… Obviously! 

And what about soaps. Do you have time to watch any? Do you have a favourite? 

Donatella Versace: No, I don’t watch soaps, but I think that made this work even more interesting, because you have a certain idea of what soap operas are – whether that idea adheres completely to what they are, or it’s completely different doesn’t matter. That’s what made this exciting: the fact that you interpret the idea of an idea and you make it something completely different. We purposely created absurd situations and in-your-face images, but at the same time, we kept what seems to be a common theme among all soap operas: betrayal.  

This issue of Baroness is centred around female empowerment, which is of course what Versace is all about. When do you feel most empowered? 

Donatella Versace: When I support other women or people whose voices are not loud enough to be heard. I have always been very vocal about the fact that men and women should be treated equally, and that, as a society, we should embrace diversity as something positive. We are special because we are different from one another.  

Get your own issue of Baroness here