Versace store in Milan. Photo: Maurizio Paolo Grassi/Dreamstime
In 1984, a young and ambitious Madonna, who was on the brink of superstardom, told Dick Clark on American Bandstand that her dream was “To rule the world.” 
Somewhat ambitious for such a young girl, but apparently not overconfident as we all know that within the next few years, she did just that. Likewise, in fashion, there are certain designers who hope to do just what Madonna did in music—they too are as ambitious as the “Material Girl” and moreover, have the power, the money and the gumption to rule their fashion kingdoms. 
 “Global expansion” may be fashion’s biggest trend in the next coming years. Everyone from the Olsen twins (Mary Kay and Ashley, who went from the darlings of “Full House” to fashion moguls) to Donatella Versace are all gung ho about expanding their brands. Nowadays, it doesn’t seem enough just to design and make clothes.
No, if you want to play with the big girls and boys, and talk power than you better have a string of hotels and restaurants in locations as exotic as Dubai under your belt. Bigger definitely seems to be better. And with some designers such as Prada, Armani, and Dolce e Gabbana now apart of the new billionaire’s club, it is hard to believe that at one time, most of the biggest names in Italian moda came from humble beginnings, working out of small workshops throughout Italy. 

While diversifying one’s business is not a new concept, the stakes, however, are higher as fashion houses are expanding with record speed and record amounts of money. This is definitely not a game for those without sufficient capital or for designers who have not created a brand that is highly recognizable. Not for the weak at heart, these top designers are no longer just confining themselves to clothes, shoes, perfumes, or sunglasses; instead, they have their sights set on hotels and restaurants, once the objects of desire for mainly celebrity chefs or a Hilton. 
 Although America is all too familiar with brand expansion and though one often equates expansion to iconic names such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, one must not forget that Italian designers have been expanding their fashion brands long before. One of the first pioneers of fashion and brand marketing and development was Florentine born, Emilio Pucci.
In 1947, Pucci first gained notoriety when the then It Girl, Suzy Parker, posed in a pair of Capris and a casual shirt. He later went on to design skiwear, swimwear, and a lingerie line. By 1964, Pucci’s name and the Pucci print, a signature look of bold colors and geometrical patterns, was found on scarves, handbags and dresses.
Within the next few decades, other Italian designers began to grow their brands. Perhaps the one designer who has recently taken the most brazen steps to increase its empire is Versace. Before his untimely death, Gianni Versace was not only a designer of remarkable talent and creativity, but he also was a brilliant and innovative businessman. 
Up till then, fashion had become rather blasé until he turned it up a notch and lit up the runways and made his shows as sexy and dynamic as rock concert. He turned models into superstars in their own right when Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington strutted down the runways wearing his glitzy designs. 
When Gianni Versace was tragically killed, many wondered what would happen to the House of Versace as it fell into the hands of his sister, Donatella. Despite all doubts, Donatella has helped the company to flourish, making designs that embody an image of sexiness and decadence, while taking Versace to places where no other designer has gone before. One such place is the hotel business. In 2000, Palazzo Versace opened in Australia and was the world’s first fashion inspired hotel. Dubai is next and just as the name Palazzo conjures up images of luxury, these dazzling hotels with their gold encrusted decor, vaulted ceilings, and motifs such as Medusas will certainly become the home away from home and the playgrounds for the rich and famous. 
Designers have also gone into the restaurant business. The Gucci Caffe’, an elegant oasis, serves culinary delicacies such as organic fried eggs with white truffle and dark chocolate cake with chopped hazelnuts and caramel sauce. Likewise, Dolce and Gabbana have opened up two wildly successful restaurants in Milano. One is called Gold, a glitzy restaurant with a gold interior, while the other is Bar Martini. 
Today, Donatella Versace is not just a designer, but like her contemporaries, Dolce e Gabbana, and Armani, is apart of this new world of fashion moguls. Ultimately, they are inviting us into their worlds, be apart of their brands, and persuade the consumer not just to wear their clothes, but also to dine and sleep in their hotels.
These designers have built their empires on beautiful clothes, extraordinary quality and innovation; whether or not they will be able to maintain this quality and juggle so many enterprises as brilliantly as their first is yet to be seen. But with yet another Versace hotel planned for Macau (a mecca for the new Super wealthy in Asia) in the works, it doesn’t seem that any of them will be slowing down any time soon. And of course, why should they?
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