TRUE TO FORM, THE VERSACE SHOW BROUGHT MILAN'S just-wrapped fashion week to an exuberant conclusion with provocative clothes, sultry models and a star-studded audience. But on the evening of Oct. 9, it was Donatella Versace—for the first time the chief designer of her late brother Gianni's label—who came out to a standing ovation. "I miss my brother very much," said a trembling Donatella, according to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, as fellow designers Giorgio Armani, Miuccia Prada and Karl Lagerfeld rushed backstage to congratulate her afterward. "I wanted to run away, thinking about coming out here without him."

Winning raves ("bold, smart and well-polished," said Women's Wear Daily), Donatella also wowed her brother's devoted clients with rubberized silk gowns, stilettos and leather shorts. "The collection was fantastic," said front-row attendee Demi Moore, sporting a gray halter-top dress from the new collection. "It had everything of [Gianni] and so much of her." My Best Friend's Wedding's Rupert Everett agreed: "Donatella did a brilliant job."

After the show 150 guests dined on truffle risotto and toasted Donatella's triumph at the Versace palazzo. Still the celebration was tinged with solemnity. "Donatella is an incredibly strong person and a fantastic designer," said Sting's wife, Trudie Styler. "[But] it's very sad to know that Gianni won't be here."