The Versace AIDS Benefit: My Favorite ‘House Of Style’ Moment

Cindy Crawford in Versace.
Photo: MTV

Could I be more excited about House Of Style? No. I couldn’t. If I was, I would explode. Literally. And that would be gross. It’s taken more than a little bit of willpower not to tell everyone I’ve ever met what we’ve been up to around these parts, but all the tight-lipped waiting was totally worth it for this moment. Our esteemed Senior Editor Mary H.K. Choi has already given you the low down on what it took to put this endeavor together, some of the amazing gems contained within the archive, and why HOS is really, really important. You should really read her posts on each of the episodes, you’ll laugh your ass off and also learn A LOT about fashion. For me personally, House Of Style is an amazing opportunity for just that: through the archive I’m learning about one of the most important sartorial and cultural eras in recent history, and it almost feels like I’m there. I was alive when House Of Style was on the air, but, well, my interests at the time lay more in Rainbow Brite, riding my bike to the Sav-On for candy, and wearing leggings with giant t-shirts than to what was happening in the world of high fashion. I also cared A LOT about Madonna and buying CDs to put in my orange Discman. Now I have my priorities more in line, and though I still love Madonna and candy, I’ve moved on from the leggings, and I want to understand the time in which I grew up. For this, HOS is a veritable miracle.

Besides making me frantically dig through my closet for that Betsey Johnson velvet fit ’n’ flare dress I wore to that bat mitzvah over a decade ago, watching these episodes is really making me feel some feelings. In episode 07, Cindy Crawford takes us to the Gianni Versace AIDS Fundraiser, and the clip perfectly illustrates everything that’s both wonderful and also kind of poignant about the show. Maybe it was because it was before the dawn of reality TV, but there’s something about the way that the models and celebrities interact with the camera, and with the fact that they’re being interviewed, that’s diametrically different from the way people approach being on television today. There seems to be a lack of facade, and a huge amount of sweetness inherent in every interview that Cindy does at the event. It could also be because AIDS was weighing heavily on everyone’s minds in 1991. When the episode first aired, the virus was spreading like a wildfire that people were just beginning to see the utterly devastating repercussions of.

And I haven’t even mentioned the clothes. Ornate, luxe, and undeniably Versace, from Cindy spinning in her high cut bathing suit and matching cover up, Sylvester and Rod Stewart in their enormous black sunglasses, and those shirtless male models in technicolor parachute pants, the segment is everything there was to love about 90’s fashion. Seeing all of these personalities, from Cindy and her then-husband Richard Gere, to Gianni Versace himself, to, um, Sylvester Stallone (talking very articulately about fashion, we must say), just draws home the fact that House Of Style is a living portrait of an industry at its peak, but also on the verge of a fundamental shift. Before the dawn of the Internet, House Of Style was really the only place to get deep inside the fashion world if you were outside of the industry, and as the sole gatekeeper, the show represents a singular moment. Nowadays you can stream a runway show from your childhood bedroom, start your own fashion blog, and have constant access to your favorite designers through social media and e-commerce, but back then, there was just House Of Style. With this new show we have an opportunity to re-visit this idea of a singular fashion moment, albeit in a brand new, even bigger way.

Watch the clip below, and then hunker down in some floral leggings with your favorite corner drugstore treats and get a House Of Style fashion history lesson from the rest of the archive!


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