Franca Sozzani has always been one of my favourite editors. Like Anna Wintour, her work goes beyond what she does for the magazine. Over the past year, for example, she's addressed the body image issue at a talk at Harvard University and most notably, she's brought the fashion industry in Africa into the public consciousness.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Vogue Italia editor has been asked to become the first Goodwill Ambassador of 'Fashion 4 Development', a new United Nations initiative that aims to encourage fashion leaders to work on sustainable development initiatives.
According to WWD, the role is part of a two-year platform that aims to help the United Nations meet their Millennium Development Goals. On Thursday Sozzani - who dedicated the June issue of L'Uomo Vogue to the topic of 'Rebranding Africa' - attended a meeting at the UN's Manhattan headquarters to discuss how designers and retailers can get on board to support the cause.
Over the last few months the fashion industry have been looking at Africa. Far from it being all about charity, the current interest in the continent has been a good one at Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani is largely to thank. Last month she confirmed that the magazine would sponsor Ghanian fashion week and anyone that has followed her blog will know that she's spent a lot of time in West Africa recently.
Many criticised her 'All Black Issue' back in 2008 for being a gimmick but Sozzani has committed to her aim of promoting diversity and supporting black creativity and the latest issue of L'Uomo Vogue is a case in point. The magazine's May issue stars unlikely cover star 67 year-old Ban Ki-Moon the Secretary General of the UN as a part of Sozzani's efforts to help in the 'rebranding of Africa.' According to the press release the aim of the issue is to 'present a new portrait of an Africa that is positive, creative and confidence of its own strengths.'
Anna Wintour may not be a fan of Kim Kardashian but Franca Sozzani doesn't seem to feel the same way. Today she posted this picture on Twitter showing her sporting a wig similar to the cropped style of her mother, Kris Jenner. 'Amazing shoot today for Vogue Italia!' she tweeted. 'Thank you @Rushka_Bergman & @akafrancesco for your creative genius!!!'
Rushka Bergman is the magazine's fashion editor and @akafresco is Sozzani's son and no doubt the photographer for the shoot so there's no doubting it was for the magazine and I don't think anyone's surprised by Sozzani's choice of subject. The editor has never shied away from going controversial and embracing popular culture and considering the uncanny timing, I'm sure this is going to get everyone talking. The tweet from Kim is no doubt part of an intentional message to the world that despite allegedly being banned from the Met Gala, some people in the fashion industry do actually embrace her 'celebrity'.
I’m not a fan of the Twitter because it’s another work. You have to be every two seconds: 'I’m here, I’m going there, I just got there.' And I understand people that love it, especially in America, but ... it’s all the time, you never feel free. But I try to talk about what we are deciding in the magazine or in the website, what’s interesting to see. [I know] people want to know about my personal life, but that’s less interesting for me.
Franca Sozzani is never afraid of getting controversial with Vogue Italia. Back in December she was under fire for releasing that image of Karlie Kloss' hips looking distorted and this month the magazine is in the headlines again for rustling some feathers. When these images of their much talked about 'Haute Mess' editorial hit the net, many began argued that the representations were stereotypical at best bordered on being racist.
'We just thought it was a concept of extravagance, of creativity, even something that is not usual,' Sozzani told The Cut when asked about the idea behind the shoot. 'I think it's good that everyone sees what they wanted to see. As you know, I don't care as much what people think, because I think that every time that you try to change something, people [say something else]. I respect everybody’s opinion. … I think that the most encouraging way is to make a discussion and not to be completely, bored, you know? I think a boring magazine is always a boring magazine.' When asked about the racism issue she said: 'A racist image, I really do not understand? I went through the pages so many times.'
While French Vogue has always been my favourite version of the international title, I've always had an affinity for Vogue Italia under Franca Sozzani. Compared to her contemporaries, Sozzani is a risk taker and has an astute sense of fashion's ability to comment and reflect on the socio-political context of the times whilst also being forward thinking and innovative.
Over the past few seasons we've seen a rise in the prominence of black models and plus size girls but Sozzani have them a platform in Italian Vogue long before anyone else did. These were just a few of the issues that popped up in Interview magazine's latest issue, which saw Livia Firth interview the editor-in-chief.
This morning Joan Smalls was unveiled as the cover star of Vogue Italia's March issue. In the Steven Meisel-shot cover she appears wearing one of the statement tops from the Dolce & Gabbana S/S12 collection with bold eye-shadow, big earrings and nails that a dance hall queen would be proud off, tying in with the magazine's 'over the top' theme.
The cover is significant for several reasons. The cover signifies that Smalls has 'arrived'. A few years ago the Puerto Rican-born model was virtually unknown in fashion circles as her modelling was limited to commercial work. Today she is sits as one of the biggest faces on the scene and is currently the face of Chanel and has appeared in just about every show or magazine that matters.
More importantly, the cover marks the first time since that 'All Black Issue' that a black model has covered the magazine. Over the years Franca Sozzani has continued with her commitment to support a diverse representation of beauty in the magazine and this cover signals a movement away from the use of black models in a token way. Hopefully this isn't the end...
Much was said recently about 'that' image of Karlie Kloss that was taken down from the Vogue Italia website. While the press really went to town on the unhealthy portrayal of models argument, Kloss didn't seem to understand why the image was so controversial when asked about it this week. "To be honest, I don’t know why they pulled it off...I think they’re beautiful photos and I’m very proud of all of them,' she said. 'I’m happy with the results...I think that they’re photos that are hopefully going to become iconic.'
Italian Vogue editor, Franca Sozzani feels the same. This morning she took to her blog to discuss the issue and was quick to refute claims that the image had been heavily retouched, instead using the angle the image was shot to explain the model's thin waist. 'very few understand photography and don’t know about the viewpoint a body can be shot from,' she wrote. 'If the bust is imbalanced with respect to the pelvis and the picture is not frontal, the hips will look wider and the waist thinner.'