Having dispatched the O.J. Simpson saga, Ryan Murphy’s “American Crime Story” anthology series now turns its second-season attention to a fashion titan with “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” which debuted Jan. 17 on FX.
While working on this installment of the series, costume designers Lou Eyrich and Allison Leach developed a deeper appreciation of the late designer’s artistry as they researched his garments and accessories at the FIDM Museum & Galleries in downtown Los Angeles — home to the Versace Menswear Archive.
“We were able to look at actual garments you couldn’t touch without white gloves,” says Leach. “We were able to see the seam work and the detail and …re-create the garments with integrity.”
The costume designers didn’t have to remake every piece worn by Édgar Ramírez, who plays Gianni Versace, and Penélope Cruz, who was cast as his sister, Donatella. They sourced vintage Versace from vendors at L.A. clothing marketplace A Current Affair as well as L.A.’s The Way We Wore and Miami’s C Madeleine’s. They also shopped online, scoring finds on eBay and Etsy.
But they refashioned an impressive amount of clothing, including nearly 20 looks for a Versace fashion show seen early in the series as well as signature garments worn by Donatella, not least her famous bondage dress, and a studded leather shirt Gianni wears to a nightclub. And they did this while working with just one full-time tailor — Joanne Mills — assigned to the project. (“You give her a hint of what you want, show her some pictures and she’s instantly got it draped on a form,” praises Eyrich. The costume designers also relied on the skill of leather expert and tailor Jonathan A. Logan, who made several pieces for the series, including the aforementioned leather shirt.
In the pilot, Eyrich and Leach use fashion to play up the stark contrast between Gianni’s opulent and happy world and the seedy existence of hustler Andrew Cunanan, played by Darren Criss, the serial killer who murdered the fashion designer in 1997. Ramírez as Gianni wears a chic wardrobe full of gorgeous silk pajamas and robes, printed shirts and studded belts from his own line. Criss as Cunanan sports a mix of ’90s aspirational preppy items, often stolen, and unremarkable everyday wear.
“Part of our goal was to create that distinction so that you could see Andrew lusting after everything Versace had,” Leach says.
The actors were all devoted to wearing the looks correctly, Eyrich explains. “It was very important for them to respect and celebrate Gianni and Donatella, which was our intention as well.”