Versace's Afterlife

GIANNI VERSACE, COUTURIER TO PRINCESS DIANA AND Courtney Love, always kept eclectic company. But since he was murdered in July, his admirers have really diversified. In December fashion's most nimble-minded iconoclast became the subject of a retrospective at New York's Metropolitan Museum. Versace's gaudiest hits are there: the wild-print pants, the beaded ""Vogue'' jumpsuit, dresses made out of everything from wire mesh to vinyl to safety pins. This may be the first Met exhibit dedicated to a man who, in the institute's own words, ""chose the prostitute as his exemplum.''

The Versace show in Milan this October also drew a new and rarefied audience. Next to the usual celebrity suspects sat designers Donna Karan, Karl Lagerfeld, Miuccia Prada and even Versace's rival, Giorgio Armani. They insisted they wanted to support Donatella Versace, who was presenting her first complete line in the wake of her brother's death. But they also came to gawk at her attempt to keep the empire afloat. The results were better than anyone had imagined. Donatella's neon silks, elaborate prints and low-cut everything evoked Gianni's style while stepping out of his shadow. Versace won't become a museum relic any time soon.