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After an apprenticeship at his mother's dressmaking business, he began working as a freelance designer. At age 25 he was creating pret-a-porter collections for top fashion houses of the time. In 1978 with the help of his brother he founded the Gianni Versace company. Later that year his first collection for women was shown in Milan. Gianni's bold, creative genius consistantly challenged the boundaries of the fashion industry. His distinctive cuts, vibrant prints and unconventional materials brilliantly united high art and contemporary culture, and he quickly earned international praise. 1982 saw him begin working for Teatro della Scala. Gianni's engagement with the theatre sparked a passion that would span his career. He was an ardent patron of the performing and visual arts and an esteemed member of the international artistic community. In 1988 the jury of the Cutty Sark award named Versace 'the most innovative and creative designer in the world.'