Franca Sozzani, the editor of the groundbreaking Vogue Italia sadly passed away yesterday. She was a true artist, a vissionaire, and a pioneer. She was relentless, fearless, poised, artistic and most importantly, mischievous. She challenged the fashion world over and over again.
Before we begin listing some of her most important milestones, here is an interesting quote by her friend Suzy Menkes: “The Editor of Italian Vogue, whose reach was so much wider than fashion, has died at age 66 after 28 years at the helm of a magazine that included such daring visual explorations as her photo-shoots of bodies writhing in an oil slick and an extraordinary premonition of faces and bodies re-made by plastic surgery. She was fearless in pointing up the imbecilic ways of the industry, but also tireless in encouraging rising fashion talent and supporting international charities.”
So, why was Franca Sozzani so pivotal for the fashion industry?
She broke race taboos: with her 2008 Black Issue, one of the best-selling editions of all times of the legendary Vogue, she showcased, as nobody else had done before, black models, artists, and other remarkable women in an entire issue dedicated to them. For this, she worked with her power team: stylist extraordinaire Edward Enninful and the already-mythical photographer Steven Meisel. Black models still have issues when it comes to landing contracts, and this is absolutely repulsive, but Franca Sozzani and her team sure made a statement through the exaltation of the value and beauty of contemporary ebony goddesses.
With her longtime partner-in-crime, Steven Meisel, she helped the first (and in my honest opinion only) supermodels achieve international fame and pave their ways: At the end of the 80’s three alluring ladies of otherworldly beauty and fierce attitude would take the world by storm – the Holy Trinity, formed by Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista – were aided by Franca and Steven to create the phenomena that would rule the fashion industry for more than a decade. After they were already the reigning queens, a few more amazones would join them: Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford and later on the one and only Kate Moss.
She challenged fashion editorials: When the 2005 Italian Vogue “Makeover Madness” came out, the whole fashion world was speechless. Franca Sozzani and again, her power team formed by Linda Evangelista, Meisel, Enninful and the make-up artist supreme Pat McGrath created a flawless combination of editorials addressing the phenomena of plastic surgery within the fashion world, that is eerily fabulous, intriguing, alluring and absolutely glamorous. This issue, as the Black Issue, is definitely second to none.
Or the 2010 oil spill editorial shot by Meisel after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in Mexico, depicting all the death that these kind of accidents caused by the exploitation of the environment cause, featuring Kristen MacMenamy. The close-minded might think its not tasteful and that it banalized the incident, but it sure brought it closer to the eyes of a crowd that would possibly never noticed it if it wasn’t featured there.
She worked and lead some of the best photographers of all times: the already mentioned Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber, Peter Lindbergh… she gave them complete freedom to choose models, subjects, and constructively criticized to create the best editorials in the history of fashion.
And most importantly, she was an active philanthropist, seeking always for ways to make the world better and more beautiful: Franca Sozzani was an ambassador of the United Nations food program, founding member of a charitable organization for kids by Condé Nast, Child Priority; lead the creative direction of the late Gianni Versace’s AIDS foundation, Convivio, and as Suzy Menkes mentions on her obituary (re-writing it wouldn’t be fair, so I choose to quote): “This month’s Swarovski Award for Positive Change was given to Franca for taking on big issues such as “diversity, ecology and feminism” and also for “a tireless commitment to fundraising for local and international charities”.
She also was always supporting new up-and-coming talents, collaborating with artists, curating art shows, and many more things that make her a true unstoppable force whose legacy will not be shaded by her passing. Franca Sozzani was hungry for change, beauty and challenges. Let’s remember her this way.
Her son Francesco premiered a brilliant documentary about his mother earlier this year, more here.