My name is Alfredo Versace and I was born in the South of Italy. As a matter of fact, half of the town was named Versace. That is because my father’s family had six siblings. My grandfather’s family had another five children so there were a lot of relations in the town I was born, Bianconovo. My father came from one town over, Carmelo Versace, which is about 5 kilometers , named Bovolino. Gianni Versace’s father was also born in Bovolino. My father and Gianni’s father were cousins and had the same grandfather. Gianni was born in Bovolino too.
In 1952, after arriving from Italy, my father was involved in producing artificial flowers which were used on hats and dresses. Most evenings he would bring home a box of flowers and stems and wires and we would assemble them after dinner. One of the stores that bought these flowers was A & S, Abraham and Strauss. In the 50’s that was one of the leading department stores. My mother would take me downtown Brooklyn where A&S was located and we would shop. If there was an occasion my mother would buy me a suite from A & S and she would point out the garments and hats with the flowers and she would say: “This is one of the flowers you made”. That would give me a great sense of joy that I made something that other people would wear. Later on my mother would do additional work by sewing piece work. This entailed assembling garments for later sale. That is when I discovered that I enjoyed producing products. From that point on I decided that I was going to create objects that gave me pleasure. In 1957 the family moved to Coral Gables, Florida and my father and his associate were involved in a handbag company called Style Craft. That was my first experience working with handbags. I loved the idea of creating handbags and today I create handbags that are hand made from rare and exotic skins. This is why I call them one of a kind because you cannot produce a handbag identical to another. The hand cutting prevents that. That is why these handbags are unique. These handbags will never go out of style as they are timeless pieces.
When I was 20 years old, we opened up the first AV store on 4th Avenue and Sackett Street in Brooklyn. The second store under the AV Versace name was opened on Crescent Street and Liberty Avenue, also in Brooklyn. That was back in the mid 60’s. There we began to make garments for private sale. My first seamstress was named Maria and from that point on I began to produce tops, pants and skirts for women. In the early 70’s I was struggling to make a living and did construction work and tailoring on the side, especially in the summer. In 1975 I opened a showroom on Broadway and 29th Street in Manhattan along with with a partner named John Choi. We had connections in China and they could produce a pair of jeans for a very low price, which was then sold to Guyana. In 1978 I purchased a showroom on 39th Street and Fifth Avenue from Maurice Sassoon. We were doing sampling and we began to do men’s clothing from that store. Maurice Sassoon at that time was going to sell his name and get out of the business of selling jeans. He gave me everything in the showroom and he only wanted one thing out of the showroom. A desk and chair that came from Israel and belonged to his family. I told him I would save the desk and chair and keep it safe until he retrieved it. Here we are today in 2012 and I am still holding on to the chair and desk for him. If Maurice happens to read this, please contact me and I will deliver the chair and desk for you as I still have them. After 37 years, I am still dragging these items around with me after moving at least a dozen times.
In the early 80’s, I opened a store on Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn. We produced men’s garments. In 1986 I purchased a store on 34th Street and Sixth Avenue. In 1987 I opened Versace Boutique and began to sell rare perfumes, women’s gloves, scarves and elegant tops and bottoms. Versace Boutique was a beautiful store made of marble and brass. Being across the street from Macy’s Gianni Versace just produced his first bottle of men’s cologne and they would not sell to me. At that time I did not have a perfume under my name. They advised me that I was too close to Macy’s to sell Gianni Versace’s men’s cologne. I called Gianni Versace in Milan and I said that I wanted to carry his cologne but I was across the street from Macy’s and I was not allowed to sell his brand. Gianni replied that the cologne did not belong to him but belonged to Yves St. Laurent. He also advised me that if I wanted to put the cologne in my perfumery I would have to contact Yves St. Laurent. Gianni said “I will call Mr. St. Laurent and tell him that you would be calling him” and to wait 15 minutes to call. He provided me with the telephone number. I did as he said and I spoke with Yves St. Laurent and I explained my predicament and I would like to carry my cousin’s fragrance in my perfumery and what can I do. He said that it would be a simple measure and he would call his distributor and make sure that I received an order for the cologne. A few days later I received a large order for Gianni Versace’s cologne. The only dilemma was that I was not provided with an invoice. I reordered the cologne several times without an invoice and I called the distributor to ask him to send me an invoice. I called Yves St. Laurent and told him that I would like to pay for the orders. He told me “All you Versace’s are crazy. I am giving you a free product and you complain”. After the fifth order I began to pay for the product. In 1988 I went to Paris to a perfume maker and we went through the entire process of selecting a fragrance that suited my taste. After all the expense of travelling back and forth to Paris with this fragrance, I was told that his company was too busy to make the perfume for me. In reality, they were not too busy but were told through their distributors that if any Versace product was produced out of that company, they would take their business elsewhere. It wasn’t until years later that I would start producing a cosmetic and perfume line that came out of South Korea.
In 1988 I was approached by the Paolo Gucci’s organization to work with their label. I was very excited to do so. While promoting my own name, I began producing product with the Paolo Gucci label. I did the designing, manufacturing and distributing for the Paolo Gucci label. I became the head of the Paolo Gucci label in the early 90’s, simultaneously with my own label.
In the early 90’s we began to trademark the Alfredo Versace name throughout the world. We were producing Alfredo Versace sportswear and women’s garments for both labels and doing very well. In 1994 we started producing cosmetics, perfumes and men’s colognes with the Alfredo Versace label under the South Korean cosmetic company called Bebeco. Our first year out, after designing the entire line which consisted of 181 products, we made gross sales of 10 million dollars. The second year we did 15 million dollars in gross sales and I opened up 16 Alfredo Versace clothing stores throughout South Korea. Additionally we were doing designs and production for one of the largest companies in Japan called Sui Kim Buson. We produced up to 50, 000 garments a month between South Korea, Japan and into China. By that time we had 49 trademark applications in place worldwide. That same year I started a tobacco company because I was a cigar smoker. I produced tobacco products. My first sale went to Macao with a 36 million dollar contract, half of which would come back to me. From China we went to Germany and Russia where the tobacco products were doing extremely well.
In 1995 we began producing sneakers under the Paolo Gucci label and the Alfredo Versace label. We sold to Foot Locker which was our main distributor. We had over 200 customers throughout the United States. 1n 1996 we started selling our products worldwide. In 1997 I received a call from Gianni Versace stating that Donatella Versace was very upset and that while walking through her South Florida neighborhood she noticed a Footlocker store with the Alfredo Versace sneakers in the window. He asked me to come down to Florida and discuss our further business enterprises. At that time I explained to Gianni that I could not come to Florida because I was going to Germany to purchase a factory that was closed but had the machinery to produce cigarettes. At that time Gianni was opening his flagship store on Fifth Avenue and I asked him if we could meet in New York when I returned from Germany. He said we would talk when I returned from my business trip. Unfortunately, he was murdered in July and we never spoke. Over the years Gianni Versace and I respectfully coexisted. In the event that someone tried to use the Versace name, we would join forces to protect the Versace label. At one time one of our cousin’s in Australia was trying to start a cosmetic company under the name of Nicole Versace. While Nicole Versace was trying to obtain a trademark in Japan, Gianni and I instructed the attorneys that while Gianni and I were cousins, Nicole was not a relative and should be denied a trademark. Not many years later when my father’s cousin from Australia showed up in New York City and I met her, she asked why I denied her granddaughter the right to use the Versace name, since we all came from the same town. These are the same people that today have a trademark to produce wine in Australia under the Versace label. I apologized to her and stated that I didn’t know we had cousins in Australia. Gianni Versace always considered me his cousin. Gianni knew that I was the first one to use the Versace name back in 1962, AV Versace, Alfredo Versace and Versace Boutique and trademarks for the entire world. After his death, things changed and we got sued worldwide and the lawsuit lasted from 1997 to 2010. Up to this time, the Versace name is in decline. Today we are in production under the Alfredo V. label. We are making high end pocketbooks made of alligator, ostrich, python and stingray as well as wallets and checkbook covers. For men, we are producing suits, sportswear and wallets, belts and toiletry cases from the same skins as the pocketbooks.