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4.7 out of 5 stars
House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A WSJ biz writer who lived in Europe for 15 years wrote this full scale business bio of the Versace tragedy, and it's a great read in all its pathos. She received full cooperation from everyone except Allegra Versace, daughter of Donatella and heiress to the house of Versace because her late uncle willed it all to her when she was just 12. Donatella's drug use is not spared here, but she received even-handed treatment as we see exactly what she faced when Gianni Versace was murdered in Miami and left her to replace him as the designing genius. She wasn't up to the task, but she muddled through. The story ends recently, but the tale of Versace is still unfolding. The main flaw is the relative lack of good photos. We get several generic shots of Casa Casuarina, the Ocean Drive mansion where Versace was shot. But there are none of the Milan atelier where all the clothes are designed and where a lot of this tale takes place.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Versace family's story is riveting. It's basically a rags to riches story with celebrities, rock 'n' roll, and murder mixed in. On top of that, there's a moving finale, when Donatella descends into drugs, nearly trashes the company, and then fights her way back from the depths and emerges again to live another day. It would be a happy ending, except that the company is still struggling and Versace's heir, Allegra, is still grappling with the fallout from it all.
In less sure hands, the over-the-top material would overwhelm the author. Deborah Ball does an excellent job of capturing the drama and pathos while still getting the facts straight. The result is a behind-the-scenes peek at life in the fast lane that at the same time offers insight into the characthers' inner lives. The book uses the family history as a way of looking at the changes in the fashion world in the past decades, and the impact that Gianni had on it. So anyone looking for a perspective on the fashion business, and for insight on how the fashion business has affected consumer tastes, would find food for thought here. And it doesn't have the warmed-over feel of a mish-mash of old press clippings, because it's clearly well researched. The author's time as a fashion reporter in Italy clearly helps make the book authentic.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I just finished House of Versace and enjoyed it tremendously. The research must
have been mammoth but it showed in the brilliant text. I also loved the writing
style. Often in either a well-researched piece or something dealing with fashion
and/or business, I become overwhelmed or bored. I was neither. One of the best
biographies I ever read was Charles Shields' Mockingbird: a Portrait of Harper
Lee. I felt after finishing the book about a complex and amazing woman that
Shields took the perfect measure of praise and honest criticism. It is a true
and realistic book that should have made Ms Lee pleased that he chose to tackle
her biography. I felt EXACTLY the same when I finished this fantastic book.
Gianni should be honored that Deborah Ball chose to do his biography in such a
careful and fair manner
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Deborah Ball's, "House of Versace," starts out slow, but picks up steam as you turn the pages. Like most biographies, the early years of an icon's life is largely uneventful, but as the person grows and finds his place in the world, the drama heats up. "House of Versace," is no different. Although, Gianni Versace was not the first fashion designer to dress celebrities, he is credited for electrifying and bringing to life the charisma within clothes. If charisma is defined as "Creating perceptions that impact the mind and emotions of others through flair, finesse and glib language," Versace used his insatiable creativity to create perceptions that disrupted and influenced mainstream fashion. In addition, Versace embodied the impact of a compelling idea. The Versace brand lives on through the sheer imagination, erudition and tenacity that were Gianni Versace.

An excellent marketing and business book about how brands are created. Also, "House of Versace," outlines the difficulties of institutionalizing the charisma of the founder once he perishes. This book is an excellent instructional guide for defining, systematizing and perpetuating a global concept.

Edward Brown
Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Good read, salacious and somewhat juicy without being tasteless. Quite a dynamic between the three sibs in a southern Italian frame of mind. Think striving to be the best when others think you don't measure up because of where you are from. Working hard always got someone somewhere and that is the moral of their story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
This is an intriguing story told in a compelling way. I couldn't put it down and finished it a in a few sittings in a 24 hour period. The story is sensational, stranger than fiction but Deborah Ball keeps it on an even keel. This book is for readers interested in the company and its people, not for those who are interested in the prurient aspects of this drama.

The beginning pulls you right in. Ball starts with the drama of the Miami shooting. Then, she takes you back in time to Calabria with a short history of Nino and Franca and more on their four children. You see how roles of the three surviving siblings, set early on, created the synergy for success. While each member was important, only one was necessary, as was learned not long after that fatal day in Miami.

This appears to be the first book for the author, a reporter who has covered luxury goods for 12 years. She has relied on over 200 interviews which include all principal players with the exception of Allegra Beck.

Ball maintains a high level through most of the book. The last 50 or so pages could use a bit more clarification and more detailed editing both in the "big" story, and in bits of detail.

For instance, the coming of Allegra is foreshadowed with rhetorical questions asking if she will "exercise her power", "allow her mother..." "take her rightful role", but these questions are not clearly answered. Allegra attends a few board meetings, she seeks the advice of her father, goes to Brown and drops out then lives somewhat reclusively in California. For the "new" Versace it seems that Santo willingly steps down, but it's hard to tell how this came about. Did Allegra do this? Did her lawyer(s) do it with or without her involvement? Maybe Santo, himself, did it, since he was active in finding successor personnel.

An example of one of the little things needing clarification is on p. 310. In discussion of the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award it says "Sharon Stone ran the auction...". Did this award ceremony have an auction with it? Maybe it did, but a general reader will go back to see if there is a second event, since awards ceremonies usually don't include auctions.

The photos match the text, but it would be wonderful to have more of them.

For a first time author this is a great effort, mostly a smooth read. Hopefully she will tackle another family business in transition, and it seems, from this book, that Italy is full of them.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book and was sad when I finished it. I thought the book was very well written. It may have something to do with the 220 interviews that the author conducted in order to really give you a clear picture and accurate timeline of the Versace family and the fashion world. It should be required reading for anyone going into the field of fashion or marketiing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most interesting biographies I've read in a long time. As another reviewer mentioned, the author had the cooperation of the Versace family, friends and business associates (with the exception of Allegra) in the writing of this book. It would have been easy for her to have given us a fawning, white-washed history. But she did not. It is all here - the wild financial excesses; the drug abuse; the health problems; the family feuds, the rivalries between the fashion houses, etc.

But it is also the story of the family's hard work, creative genius, and unbound generosity.

And yes, it would have been nice to have seen some photographs of the fashions mentioned. Many of these fashions were described in detail in the text, so it would have been helpful to have seen actual photos. There are, however, several photographs of the Versace family in the book.

An amazing, fast-paced, and very well written story. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is a heartbreaking story of life, love, inspiration and strength within the Versace family.

As a big Gianni Versace fan of 6 years, I can't help but write this review with at least *some
bias -- but objectively, "House of VERSACE" hits the mark -- chronicling the life of arguably
the most creative fashion designer in the world; from his humble beginnings in southern Italy,
to his stellar fame / world-renown, to his tragic death, and what was left is his wake.

How was the empire able to pull it together, after the assassination of their king?
That's the real drama in Deborah Ball's "House of VERSACE" -- a real, human story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
From the 1st page onwards, I was riveted to this book, just waiting for the next moment when I could devour the next pages.

Deborah Ball obviously carried out an incredible amount of research for this story. The finesse of her understanding of all these characters and their respective behaviour throughout is amazing, as well as the description of the inner workings of the retail fashion business in general.

All in all, a very very compelling and entertaining read.

Highly recommended.
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