Franca Sozzani’s legacy: society, sustainability, racism, feminism and her truth through the eyes of fashion

The legendary, Franca Sozzani, with her wild imagination, social criticism and sensitivity for photography

Is, and always will be, a visionary in the fashion industry.

Franca Sozzani was for twenty-seven years the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia and ten years of L’Uomo Vogue. The woman who got to do one issue after another and which were all notorious, provocative and fascinating.

Vogue Italia is still considered – four years after her death – the first to succeed in transforming fashion press in the 1980s, marking a before and after in magazines. For decades, Vogue Italia has been on everyone’s eyes as the magazine that gives voice to social problems around the world. It is considering to be one of the most influential magazines in the industry of fashion for the past seventy-five years.

This phenomenon was made by the global and contemporary vision of its Editor-in-Chief, Franca Sozzani,  who guided Vogue Italia from 1998 to 2016 and transformed it into the most innovative, independent and ahead of its time 360º fashion magazine. She demonstrated how far fashion and press can go through the universal language of images.

The documentary “Franca: Chaos and Creation” released in 2016 – a few months before Franca’s death – and was filmed and directed by her son, Francesco Carrozzini. This intimate portrait exhibits Franca as a woman faithful to her principles, with unquestionable ethic and exquisite taste for fashion. Many well-known fashion professionals were part of her career, including Donatella Versace, André Leon, Valentino, Suzy Menkes, Jonathan Newhouse and Karl Lagerfeld.

Franca Sozzani was born in 1950 in Mantua, Italy. From an upper-middle-class bourgeois family, she used to ski during the winter and spend her holidays at the beach with her sister Carla, current owner of Corso Como. She had a happy childhood, with a father whom she idolized and looked up to, for his elegance and affection. In her personal life, Franca was very reserved and tried to keep her life privately. She married in her twenties, but unfortunately the marriage ended three months after. Years later, her son Francesco was born out of the marriage as a single woman.

After her graduation in Philosophy and German Language, she began her career working for Vogue Bambini magazine. In 1980, she became the Editor-in-Chief of Lei magazine and three years later, directed the men’s version of the magazine entitled Per Lui. On 1988 she was named Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia. Ultimately, on 2006 she managed the men’s version of the publication, L’Uomo Vogue, until she died in December of 2016.

‘Il nuovo stilo’ (July-August, 1988) was the first issue of Franca Sozzani as Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia. The first printed expression of Franca’s particular vision, where she made it very clear that fashion was not about clothes, it was about life.

“The success of a genius is finding talent” – Franca states in the documentary “Franca: Chaos and Creation”. She was determined to show something new to the world and everyone followed her. Franca’s intense, independent, instinctive and vibrant personality made her impregnable and at the same time admired by everyone who worked and had a conversation with her.

The photographers who were part of her intimate circle and with whom she had a genuine love story were the talented Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel and Peter Lindbergh.

A relationship based on the photographer’s freedom to capture the sensitivity of detail through the lens, creating a dream where fashion was not the main thing. The essence was to show the photographer’s style and creativity, with powerful images that make the readers think and interact.

All the covers of Franca’s Vogue Italia – for twenty-seven years – were photographed by Steven Meisel, who brings a sensitivity and a new vision that Franca was looking for in her magazine.

Franca Sozzani’s promoted the figure of supermodels in the golden age of the 90s, publishing in May (1993) the iconic cover with Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Amber Valetta, Nadja Auermann, Kristen McMenamy and Shalom Harlow. Furthermore, she was the first to publish a celebrity in a magazine, this time Madonna was on the cover after the release of her album called “Sex” in 1991.

This woman with curly blonde hair, blue eyes and that unique Italian style, Franca Sozzani, broke down all the established canons of fashion in the past thirty years. An insatiable woman who, through her vision of fashion, placed a focus on ethics, truth and put social criticism as the emblem of all the covers that were published in Vogue Italia with relevant issues such as ‘Curvy’,’Rehab or ‘The Latest Wave’. Forbes defined her as “Franca Sozzani: Vogue Italia’s queen of controversy”. Feminism, cosmetic surgery, racism and sustainability were some of the main issues that made into Vogue Italia’s covers during her reign. Franca used social criticism as a DNA in all her editorials, contributing an unconventional meaning, without falling into the superficiality that the fashion world was used to at the time. As a result, her covers ended up causing a lot of controversy, as well as success around the world.

One of her most controversial issues was ‘Makeover Madness’ released in 2005, as a social satire on cosmetic surgeries. Three years later, Vogue Italia’s ‘Black Issue’ showed a black model on its cover, a very controversial move at the time as it was the first magazine to show a colored woman on its covers. Nowadays this issue is considered to be collector’s product, having three editions of the same issue. But it was in 2014 when ‘Cinematic’ was published, one of the most gore and debatable issues we have seen in a fashion magazine against domestic violence. The images represented the reality of many women who fight every day to save their lives, it was a wake-up call to the fashion world, which until now, looked the other way in these real domestic situations, where reality surpasses fiction.

Overall, Franca will always be a figure who did not renounce to her beliefs and who marked a before and after in how we understand fashion, how we live it and express it. During her twenty-seven years as an Editor-in-Chief for Vogue Italia, she continuously found something to raise her voice for, creating a whole new universe around her vision.

As a consequence, in 2012 Nicolas Sarkozy awarded Franca Sozzani with the Legion of Honour of the French Republic. She broke the rules of the game and created her own through her vision of current circumstances, art and fashion.

Her legacy continues to inspire journalists, photographers and the entire fashion industry. The pages of fashion magazines follow into her footsteps; where photography, cinema, art and fashion are used to echo social criticism and injustice.

She inspired millions of people, encouraging young people to be brave, fighters, creative and independent.

“It’s nice to create a legacy. It means that your life has been used to tell a story.”

Franca: Chaos and Creation, September (2016).

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