Donatella Versace Attacks Italian Government’s Anti-LGBTQ+ Policies at Milan Fashion Week

Italian fashion icon Donatella Versace has sharply criticized moves by Italy’s far-right government to restrict the rights of same-sex couples, lashing out at anti-LGBTQ+ policies in a speech Sunday night at the CNMI Sustainable Fashion Awards during Milan Fashion Week.

The new Italian government, under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, which took power last year, has rolled out several new laws, including policies ordering municipalities to stop the registration of most children with same-sex parents and extending a national ban on surrogacy for same-sex couples, making it illegal to go abroad for the practice, with prison terms of up to two years and a fine of up to 1 million euro ($1.06 million).

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“Our government is trying to take away people’s rights to live as they wish, they are restricting our freedoms,” said Versace in her speech Sunday night. “The freedom to walk down the street with our heads held high and without fear, regardless of identity. The freedom to build a family and live as one wishes. The freedom to love whom one wishes. We all have to fight for freedom. At a time when transgender people still suffer terrible violence, at a time when children of same-sex couples are not considered their children, at a time when minority voices are being attacked by new laws. At this time, we still have a lot to do.”

The crowd at the CNMI Sustainable Fashion Awards, the “green Oscars of fashion,” at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, leaped to their feet, giving Vesace a sustained standing ovation. Versace was accepting the Humanitarian Award for Equity and Inclusivity and was accompanied on stage by Italian left-wing politician and LGBTQ+ activist Alessandro Zan. Speaking to Zan, Versace said: “Your voice is critical in our world, and I am here to support all that you fight for.”

Accepting the award from Italian pop star Marco Mengoni, who called her “a gay icon,” Versace spoke of when her brother Gianni came out to her as gay when he was 11 years old.

“For me, that didn’t change anything. I loved him and didn’t care who he loved. His love and encouragement made me who I am,” the designer said, her speech interrupted several times by thunderous applause from the audience. “Marco said I am a queer icon [and] I am very proud of that. I fight for freedom, equity, and inclusiveness every day. I built my chosen family with unconditional love. My friends and my team are not defined by race, religion, age, gender or sexual orientation, but by creativity, openness, joy, and kindness — values that matter. If we were all more welcoming and understanding of one another, what an extraordinary world it would be.”

The White Lotus actor Sabrina Impacciatore presented the CNMI awards and the event was attended by the world’s fashion elite, including Oscar winners Julianne Moore and Jessica Chastain and supermodels Bianca Balti and Coco Rocha.

Sponsored by the National Chamber for Italian Fashion, in collaboration with the Ethical Fashion Initiative (Efi) of the United Nations Agency and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with the support of the City of Milan, the awards are meant to honor those in the international fashion world who have distinguished themselves for their dedicated commitment to sustainability.

Ten awards were given by an international jury of 11 members, including CNMI president Carlo Capasa. Other winners include Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, who took the Education of Excellence Award; Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue, who won the Visionary Award; and Gucci, which took the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Award for Circular Economy for its Denim Project which aims to protect biodiversity throughout its supply chain and use waste-cutting techniques to maximize fabric use. Italian luxury textile company Manteco took the Climate Action Award. The Bicester Collection Award for Emerging Designers went to the Ahluwalia brand designed by Priya Ahluwalia; French luxury giant, Kering won the Biodiversity & Water Award; Chloé took the Human Capital & Social Impact Award; and the Craft & Italian Artisanship Award was won by Dolce & Gabbana. Italian fashion group Candiani won the Groundbreaker Award for Coreva, its new patented technology that allows the production of the world’s first biodegradable and compostable stretch denim.

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