If you are truly into Style you will have at one point picked up a copy of Italian Vogue. Either in Italy or elsewhere.
Then you should know that Franca Sozzani, the Editor in Chief of Italian Vogue, has died at 66. Sadly she now joins musician George Michael, along with witty author/actor/ex-princess Carrie Fisher (what they all have in common is that they pushed the boundaries). Yves Saint Laurent said “fashion fades, style is eternal” so the heavens now are alive with some serious style spirits.
Photo of Franca: Francesco Carrozzini
Franca, an ageless 66, was born in Mantua. Her father, a classic Italian patriarch, was an industrial engineer who did not approve his daughter’s early ambitions to study physics. She studied literature and philosophy at university in Milan instead, and married soon after, although she knew, as she later admitted, that the marriage was doomed before she walked into the church. (Franca would later confess that romantic relationships were the one weak link in her formidable arsenal of triumphs.) The couple divorced three months later, and the free-spirited Franca went to India to find herself—“I thought it was time to do something good with my life.” Time spent in Swinging London further nurtured her creative spirit.
When she returned from her odyssey, she stumbled into a job at Vogue Bambini(as “assistant to the assistant to the assistant,” as she playfully remembered). By 1980, she landed the editorship of Lei, aimed at young women, with Per Lui, its male counterpart, following in 1982. She transformed both these titles into showcases for the most dynamic trends in international fashion and lifestyle image-making. When Oliviero Toscani, her key photographer, moved on from her magazines, she began nurturing a dazzling talent roster of emerging photographers including Mario Testino, Paolo Roversi, Herb Ritts, Peter Lindbergh, Bruce Weber, and Steven Meisel, all of whom were attracted by the unprecedented editorial freedom that she gave them, and her passion for photography.
“Why would anyone buy Italian Vogue?” she once queried, “They wouldn’t—only Italians read Italian.” She knew that she needed to communicate instead through powerful imagery, and by showcasing her photographers’ work in this way, she earned their unswerving loyalty and their willingness to work with her magazines’ negligible budgets. “When I sent all these photos to you, I would write on the package ‘personal,’ ” Weber wrote to her, “I now realize that I took them for you because you would be the only one who would understand.”
At the same time, Franca became an indispensable part of the Italian fashion scene, a shrewd power broker with an unequaled reach to its designers and the manufacturers and industrialists who keep the industry’s wheels turning.
In 1988, she was appointed Editor in Chief of Italian Vogue—the same month that Anna Wintour was made the Editor in Chief at American Vogue. (By 1994, she was made Editor in Chief of Italian Condé Nast, enjoying great support from an at times long-suffering Jonathan Newhouse, the chairman of Condé Nast International.) Franca immediately shook up the formulaic title with dynamic covers and content, creating a magazine that, in her words, would be “extravagant, experimental, innovative.”
Franca’s ethereal, otherworldly beauty, with her limpid blue eyes and tumble of pale blonde Pre-Raphaelite waves, belied her indomitable personality. “I listen,” she said, “but I must go my own way.”
A maverick spirit, she turned her Vogue into a magazine that not only celebrated the power of the image, but also used fashion stories as a platform to discuss broader issues, and the obsessions of the fashionable world. Franca had a passion for, and a deep knowledge of, fashion and its history, but an ability to keep an amused distance from its modern day excesses.
She was fearless in her willingness to tackle provocative and controversial social and cultural issues through the medium of fashion shoots. (“Fashion isn’t really about clothes,” she said, “it’s about life.”)
A remarkable woman whose talent was matched by her fierce loyalty and her passion for life.
Photo: Peter Lindbergh
Story (condensed): Hamish Bowles for Vogue Magazine
a documentary I wrote about at VIFF including link to controversial trailer: https://girlwhowouldbeking.com/2016/10/13/lifestylefilm-from-franca-to-freightened/