Franca Sozzani was one of the most influential editors Vogue has ever had. For twenty-eight years she was editor and chief of Vogue Italia, creating some of their most iconic issues with her endless creativity, guts and controversial concepts and photography.

 

 

“Fashion isn’t really about clothes. It’s about life,”

 

Franca Sozzani once said. “We can’t always be writing about flowers and lace and aquamarine.”

 

Indeed, during her almost three decades at the helm of Italian Vogue she transformed the magazine from one simply about clothes into one that championed its photographers, regularly broke boundaries, and never shied away from important issues. In 2008, she made history by filling an issue exclusively with models of African descent. Three years later, in 2011, she did it again by featuring three plus-sized models in lingerie on the cover. She championed emerging designers from her homeland of Italy all the way to Africa, gave her photographers unrivaled creative control, and brought attention to issues concerning everything from domestic violence to the environment in the pages of her magazine.

 

Last year her son Francesco Carrozzini released Franca: Chaos and Creation, a documentary about his mother and their relationship.

 

She transformed the magazine from one simply about clothes into one that championed its photographers, regularly broke boundaries, and never shied away from important issues.

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.”

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. She was fearless in her willingness to tackle provocative and controversial social and cultural issues through the medium of fashion shoots.

 

Lightning rod subjects included domestic violence (“Horror Movie,” Steven Meisel, April 2014), and the contemporary obsession with plastic surgery (“Makeover Madness,” July 2005, a droll Meisel portfolio starring Linda Evangelista, Julia Stegner, and Missy Rayder, among others), and even the 2010 BP oil spill (Meisel with Kristen McMenamy washed up on the rocks and slicked with tar).

In 2008, she produced the Black Issue, its editorial pages, entirely shot by Meisel, exclusively featuring women of color. It contributed mightily to the dialogue about diversity in the fashion industry and became an instant collector’s item. “Franca doesn’t realize what she’s done for people of color,” her friend Naomi Campbell (one of four cover stars with 20 portraits inside the magazine) told The New York Times at the time, “It reminds me of Yves [Saint Laurent] using all the black models.”

 

Makeover Madness, July 2005

It appears that the desire to have plastic surgery is no longer front page news but a reality in both the celebrity world and greater society. It is an enduring phenomenon and one that above all seems to embrace both men and women. In Italy, put “plastic surgery” into Google and you’ll see that pole position is taken by “breast enlargement” (95,000 hits) – but Italians are also fascinated by the face lift, liposuction, blefaroplasty, rhinoplasty and abdominoplasty, as well as people who have surgery and then want more and more. Surprisingly, there are more than 27,000 hits for phalloplasty – and, to tell you the truth, very few of these are andrology sites. But the kind of elegance that the supermodel Linda Evangelista has, as Steven Meisel showed in the pages of Italian Vogue, doesn’t come à la carte from any clinic.

 

Water & Oil, 2010

We’ve all watched in shock as the black tide spread ceaselessly throughout the Gulf of Mexico – twitter comments, posting pictures, and we’ve all followed – from computer screens around the world – each failed attempt to stop the spill and clean the damage.

In the face of this dramatic, catastrophic stalling, the images of Steven Meisel make up a precious reportage that delivers an artistic impact. Unforgettable images, created purposely to unnerve the viewer, capture the reality of the situation.

And through the sun’s rays blackened by carbon, petrol, anthracite and graphite, he depicts our collective dismay. Model Kristen McMenamy becomes the protagonist of a news story, in the style Vogue Italia is known for.

 

Belle Vere, 2011

First Vogue issue to ever feature plus size models. Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine and Robyn Lawley are on the June issue cover story, portrayed by Steven Meisel. So Curvy! Emphasizing a soft and sinuous sensuality, the maquillage concentrates on the brightness of the skin. That it sets off with a radiance effect foundation cream such as Photo Perfexion Light, in light shell, which, thanks to an innovative formula smoothes down the complexion.

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