Just before Christmas last year, the world lost yet another iconic figure. Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, lost her longtime battle with lung cancer. Though she is no longer with us, Sozzani will be honoured posthumously with this year’s CFDA Fashion Icon Award; an award rightfully deserved. Afterall, she was a woman who did exceed in style, not only in her way of dressing but with her work as well. Under her 28-year leadership, she put out some of the most legendary magazine issues the industry has ever seen. Franca Sozzani never backed down from industry issues, or even world issues. She called them out and included them in her publication.
The most iconic of Sozzani’s work takes us back to July 2008 when she launched Vogue Italia’s All Black Issue. Inspired by the lack of diversity on the runways, the representation debate that took off in New York in 2007, and the “untapped potential of black models,” this special (and much needed) issue focused on #BlackModelMagic and featured such models as Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn, Liya Kebede and Sessilee Lopez. Despite the industry telling her that an issue full of black models wouldn’t sell, Sozzani pressed on and created an editorial that featured 100 pages of black models shot by famed fashion photographer Steven Meisel. The issue sold out within the U.K and the U.S within 72 hours, prompting the publication to reprint an additional 30,000 copies.
The revolution, however, did not stop there. In July 2011, Sozzani tackled yet another major industry dilemma with Vogue Italia’s Plus-Size Issue. Like the Black Issue, this feature showcased a group of models who are poorly represented. Casting plus-size models Candice Huffine, Robyn Lawley and Tara Lynn, Sozzani put a forth a cover of curvy girls clad in lingerie while lounging around plates of spaghetti. This issue also launched Vogue Italia’s Curvy section which is still on the company’s website to this day.
Of course this was met with obvious backlash. People rarely like being confronted with issues they are apart of, but this didn’t stop Sozzani and her mission.
“Fashion is a mirror of an era in which we live. Why should the magazine be disconnected from reality? It’s not like in the past”
She continued to create content that not only challenged the industry but her readers as well. She was well-known for including topics and issues in her magazine which the fashion industry — and people in general — typically avoided. Where people usually come to fashion to escape the harsh realities of the world, Sozzani included those same realities in her work. Whether she was confronting the plastic surgery phenomenon (July 2005), the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (August 2010) or domestic violence (April 2014), Sozzani stood by her belief that “fashion isn’t really about clothes—it’s about life.”
While the Council of Fashion Designers of America honour Franca Sozzani for her style (and she had great style), may we never forget all the important work she’s done for the industry and all the doors she opened for the models who are rarely seen. Here’s to her style, her work and a legacy I hope to see not only at Vogue Italia, but across all fashion publications.
Renée Bu, Managing Editor