Gianni Versace was born in Reggio di Calabria, Italy, where he grew up with his siblings Santo and Donatella, along with their father and dressmaker mother, Francesca.
Gianni began his apprenticeship at a young age, helping his mother find precious stones and gold braid with which to embroider dresses. He studied architecture before moving to Milan at the age of 25 to work in fashion design.
In the mid-Seventies, his knits drew the attention of head-hunters at Genny and Callaghan. Complice hired him to design their leather and suede collections, and a few years later, encouraged by his success, Versace presented his first signature collection for women at the Palazzo della Permanente Art Museum of Milan. His first menswear collection followed in September of the same year.
The designer battled with a rare cancer of the inner ear. He was presumed to be in remission when, one July morning in the summer of 1997, returning from his customary walk on Ocean Drive, he was gunned down outside his ocean-front mansion in Miami Beach, Florida. He was murdered by spree killer Andrew Cunanan, who committed suicide shortly after the murder. Police reported that Andrew Cunanan had committed suicide using the same handgun that had been used to murder Gianni Versace. He was buried in Lake Como, Italy.
In September 1997, Versace's brother Santo Versace was announced as the new CEO of the Versace holding. Gianni's sister, Donatella Versace, is the new head of design. Elton John dedicated his 1997 album The Big Picture to Versace.