Five Minutes with CMO of Versace, Stephen Croncota

BlackBook sits down with Stephen Croncota, the CMO of Versace to talk about what’s next for the brand, dressing Michelle Obama and some of the challenges facing the fashion industry today.

Stephen also opens up about his role models and why after spending three years as Versace’s CMO in the early noughties he decided to return to the house in 2015.

Having left Versace in 2006, why did you return?

Versace has, over the past five or six years, been on a real roll. The company has achieved double-digit growth every one of those years. That’s an achievement for a brand that has been around for forty years, and has had the same woman at the creative helm for the past twenty. I didn’t expect to return, although when Donatella asked me to come back, I was humbled and appreciative, as it’s always nice to know that the people you’ve worked with would like to do it again. And this is such an exciting time to be here, it was too hard to say no.

What is next for Versace?

The last few collections have probably gotten the best reviews of Donatella’s career. And rightly so — they were modern, relevant, beautiful and wearable. For each runway show, Donatella commissioned songs which speak about empowerment, independence and self-belief, and how critical they are for girls and women. This message comes straight from her heart, and from her life experience. She is a woman who took on a huge challenge after the death of her brother, and somehow here she is, all these years later, a global icon with a flourishing company. When she tells girls to believe in yourself even when no one else does, she knows what she’s talking about. More of all of the above is what’s next for Versace.

“Versace has, over the past five or six years, been on a real roll. The company has achieved double-digit growth every one of those years.”
How do Versace embrace their audience?

If you’ve seen our social media footprints, and the success we have had, you know that we view our relationship with our audience as a conversation. We all take the feedback and comments we receive seriously. And that includes Donatella — she reads what people write to her on her personal Instagram page. And, with almost a million followers, that’s a lot of reading! But we think we’re unique in how people feel about her and the brand, and we want to encourage that love.

What are some of the greater challenges in your role?

We’re of course very well known for red carpet and celebrity dressing. There’s almost no major movie star or music star Versace hasn’t dressed, and many of them are good friends of the house. As much as we appreciate the immense publicity we receive from all of that, dressing rich and famous people is not all we do. It’s not only the most important thing we do. We make clothes for real men and real women, and the most satisfying thing for all of us is to see someone put Versace on and feel that little jolt of power and confidence our clothes can give you. We never want people to view us as ‘just for stars’ or ‘out of reach’ — we’ll always have a bit of glamour to the Versace brand, but we’re also all about keeping it real.

If we are sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great week it’s been, what would that week have looked like?

I think it just happened. Michelle Obama just wore Versace to the final state dinner of the Obama administration. She looked unbelievable, and the photos went around the world. Michelle Obama. Versace. Final state dinner. Raves. Yup, that’s a great week.

“Donatella reads what people write on her Instagram. With almost a million followers, that’s a lot of reading!”
Who is your role model, and why?

I work for Donatella Versace and Jonathan Akeroyd (our CEO). She’s Italian — fiery, funny and passionate; he’s British — smart, thoughtful and cool. They’re the yin and yang of Versace today, and I find them to be pretty good role models for myself. And I’m not just saying that.

If you were to describe Stephen Croncota in three words, what would they be?

Out of time.