By Saul Roth
When Gianni Versace opened his first boutique in 1978, he had a visionary idea for a new fashion line and launched it with 130 high-end boutiques around the world by 1997.
He was known for his colorfully vibrant designs, which transcended the fashion world. He won over A-list supporters and put them in front of any brand he worked with by using celebrities like Madonna or Elton John as models during shows – all while remaining on top.
The life of a fashion designer is not easy. Antonio Versace found himself at the top, running an empire with his sister and brother while overseeing their own businesses as well; yet there were times when he needed some time away from all that pressure just to relax before going back to work again. In 1991 on one trip down south along Miami Beach’s South Beach, things would change forever – because what better place could exist for someone who wanted privacy than right there near Biscayne Bay? That very same year saw him establish residence in sunny Florida where we have seen him create many memorable outfits both indoors or outdoors ever since. He didn’t have any worries on earth and could enjoy life with no stress, which is what led him to be shot by someone right outside the door where he felt safest.
Versace woke up in his luxurious Miami Beach mansion on July 15, 1997. He had just spent the night at Casa Casuarina – a 10-room 3 story 1930s Mediterranean style house located down Ocean Drive in the very popular area of this fun beach town.
On July 15, 1997—as he often did, Versace walked to the News Cafe just south of 800 Ocean Drive, then afterward, made the journey back to his elegant home.
When Versace got home, he found an unknown stranger outside of his house dressed in a grey T-shirt and black shorts with a white hat carrying a backpack. The man pulled out a 40 caliber handgun and shot Versace twice in the head at point blank range.
The fashion designer and architect, Versace was quickly transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center in Miami. But by 9:15 am he had passed away at the age 50 with his family around him.
The world was in an uproar after the shocking viciousness of this assassination. Crowds gathered at South Beach to watch it all go down, with many people taking photos and video footage.
Whether or not Versace and his murderer Cunanan knew one another is still up for debate. Some sources claim that he met the designer in San Francisco years before 1997, but his family maintains they never crossed paths until then.
Cops finally caught up with Cunanan when his houseboat was surrounded by law enforcement. They found evidence that he tried getting a fake passport, but as they approached he took took his own life.