Francesca Versace: More than just a charmed life
NEW BEGINNINGS (The Philippine Star) - August 11, 2013 - 12:00am

To the manor she was born. But there’s more to Francesca Versace’s charmed life than being the daughter of Santo Versace, eldest brother of the late Gianni Versace and Donatella Versace.

In Milan, Italy where she was born and raised, German was the first language she learned to speak. “I had a German nanny who taught me to speak it,” she says. In fact, she studied at a German school in Milan all throughout.

“My father was very convinced that if I knew German, I would easily learn other languages. In fact, I learned French in three years. Then I learned English when I moved to London. I speak a little bit of Spanish and I’m actually learning Portugese/Brazilian because I love to travel and I love the Brazilian language as well,” says Francesca who, following the tradition of her famous family, finished Fashion Design and Marketing at the Central Saint Martins College of Arts in London.

She jetted to Manila recently to launch her collection of bags and accessories called Travel Sense for Bric’s, a 60-year-old Italian luggage brand, at Shangri-La Mall’s new East Wing and SM Aura.

If her Uncle Gianni were alive, Francesca, 31, thinks he would also be very happy for her for carving her own path in the world of fashion. She says her father and Aunt Donatella allowed her to be on her own, to work outside the family business.

“I’m very proud of my family because after the death of my Uncle Gianni, it was the toughest job for my Aunt Donatella and my father to keep up the company to make it survive. They managed to do so and so I admire them for that. Nowadays, Versace is still there. I’m trying to make my own projects, my own path because at the moment, I’m exploring other companies, other collaborations,” she says.

Her collaboration with Bric’s brings her immense joy. She was in a fair in Florence two years ago for a preview of her bag collection when she met the Briccola family, owners of Bric’s. A collaboration was sealed and Francesca came up with the line Fashion Frame for the Travel Sense collection.

“The collection is called Travel Sense because I love to travel. I get my design inspirations when I go to the museums, exhibitions. Buying books and exhibitions are my favorite things. I love to go to the markets. I’m OK with computers but I don’t necessarily love computers. I’m a very pen-and-paper type of person. I just love to write and sketch. When I travel, I like to take pictures with my camera, and then print them. It’s either I would put them on a mood board or better, I would put them in frames, a lot of frames,” she says.

Those frames — filled with photographs that depict her own view of the world, that reveal her own emotions and experiences — are the inspiration for the Spring design she made for the line Fashion Frame. Francesca is also preparing her line Francesca V for Bric’s, which will include perfumes, sunglasses and shoes.

She notes that her design style includes a lot of Baroque inspiration because it is her ode, her perpetual connection to her Versace family. “The Versaces are big on family matters,” says Francesca. They travel together, with Miami as the favorite destination of the Versaces.

“To have enjoyed the company, love and friendship that my Uncle Gianni gave me is truly a privilege. In fact, he became friends with the most special people in the world, from Princess Diana, to Sting, to Elton John, not just because he was very good in designing but he was a very special human being. He was a real person. I am thankful he shared himself to me,” reveals Francesca. She adds that it was her Uncle Gianni who introduced her to picture books. “In our many travels together, he bought me many books that had huge visuals, drawings in them. He would bring me to shopping areas not for clothes but for photography books. He also brought me to libraries around the world.”

She continues, “From my Aunt Donatella, I learned a lot of things. She is very active, always travelling the world for work and she was an inspiration for my uncle. I thank them for the many inspirations they taught me. They brought me to fashion shows in the ‘90s and I believe that was my training for my fashion vision.”

It was also from Donatella that Francesca learned how not to take life so seriously. “She always gives me this sense of humor, of lightness of spirit. She loves to laugh. She has an amazing sense of humor. You’ll never get bored with Aunt Donnie.”

Francesca says her father Santo taught her and her younger brother Antonio, 27, to always express their individuality. It was from their mother Cristiana where Francesca and Antonio learned how to have a super active lifestyle.

“My mom is always super active. She would give me a wake-up call not to be lazy, do sports. She gave me a very healthy food education. When we were children, my brother Antonio and I were forbidden to eat the typical Nutella or chocolates at home. We were given a lot of fruits and vegetables,” she says.

“But I am an Italian and I love to eat everything.”

Because of her mother’s influence, Francesca got to involve herself in sports. Her hobbies include playing tennis, scuba diving, wakeboarding, snowboarding and water skiing. To keep her in shape, she does Pilates, yoga and cardio exercises. When she was still a kid, her mother told her to “try all the sports you like” so she engaged herself into basketball, volleyball, football, gymnastics, trampoline and ice-skating.

But of all the things she has learned from her family, the most important lesson Francesca keeps close to her heart is service for mankind. She grew up watching her Uncle Gianni spearhead Compedio, a charity group he put up for people with HIV.

Now, Francesca is a big supporter of Operation Smile in Italy.  She has a very soft spot for children. “I am most joyful when I see beautiful smiles from children who underwent lip or cleft palate operation. I believe it’s easy to give the faith in charities than do nothing. I do what I believe, that’s my motto.”

Generosity of spirit is something ingrained in her by the members of the Versace family. “I’m a very generous and sweet person. I love to organize events for my friends and family. I can actually open a concierge company. I love to cook pasta with zucchini and zafferano then I cook sea bass in the oven and serve them to my friends,” she says. Her love for cooking is a trait passed on to her by her grandmother Bruna.

Yes, Francesca admits, she is very sweet as a person. But she can also be strong.

“The strong side is a matter of discipline when you have a routine in life — it’s showing your strength. Being strong is about going to the end of things, not just starting them. It’s about being focused on your vision,” she says.

Francesca reveals that the Versaces subscribe to the saying that patience is a virtue. “Being patient is what brings you to the result. If you want to do everything quickly, nothing will happen, so you really have to be patient.” It is through her patience that she learns to relax. “I’m very relaxed and calm now. And if you are more relaxed, calm and patient, everything will come towards you. It’s energy, it’s karma.”

Her sweet and strong sides, her patience and fortitude for her craft are what propel Francesca to do better in life.  After all, she is a Versace and it is in her DNA to be both good and great.

(Visit Bric’s at the new Shangri-La Plaza East Wing and at the ground floor of SM Aura. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/pages/Brics-Philippines/.)

(E-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio. Have a blessed Sunday!)

AUNT DONATELLA BRIC FAMILY FASHION FRAME FRANCESCA LOVE TRAVEL SENSE UNCLE GIANNI VERSACE
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