The Lexington Avenue Armory is, in most fashion minds, deeply associated with Marc Jacobs. If one of the designer’s shows isn’t happening there, does the place even really exist? Leave it to Donatella Versace to put her own imprimatur on the palatial space, as she did Wednesday night when she hosted a party and runway show for Versus Versace and J. W. Anderson’s capsule collection for the line. There was no mistaking the evening for anything but a Versace event: exclusively male bartenders were straight out of central casting, their tightly muscled physiques visible beneath gold medusa-emblazoned black t-shirts. The event’s scale was staggering, with DJ Maxwell housed in a booth a good story and a half above the throngs. And the crowd? Well, let’s just say there were a lot of studs (interpret as you will) and black leather and everyone and their mother seemed to have a bodyguard.

But lest anyone think this was a rehashing of past glory days, guests were given bracelets proclaiming “#newversus”. The night served as a launching pad for the, well, new Versus line, now a seasonless collection of brightly colored knits and graphic black and white ensembles. “We decided to bring the new Versus Versace back to New York because this is where it all started and where it belongs,” said Versace. “This city represents the energy of the brand and its rebellious and unconventional nature.”

Forty-five minutes into the party, the lights came up on a huge glassed-in rectangular room—a makeshift backstage where Versace and Anderson could be seen tending to models before they stomped around a U-shaped runway, punctuated with performances by Angel Haze, Dead Sara and Grimes, all projected on two huge screens. Fans pressed themselves up against the glass for a glimpse of Donatella as she, variously, paced through the room; tweaked models’ outfits, and at one point, sat on a zebra-striped ottoman with Anderson to watch the show on smaller TV screens. It was all rather meta.

“Oh my god, it’s Donatella!” screamed one long-haired chap, seemingly on the verge of a hysterical breakdown.

“She’s JUST like she should be!” sighed his companion.

Forget the clothes—as charming as they were. This was theatre and performance art rolled into one sweaty, throbbing package.

And Versace and the musical talents weren’t the only source of entertainment. Throughout the night, guests could hitch a ride on a tricked out pedicab decorated with a tower of handbags. “I can take you anywhere you want,” said Miles, the dapper driver, grinning slyly. “Over the rainbow and back. No, seriously.” I might just have believed him.

Photo: Sherly Rabbani & Josephine Solimene