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Franca Sozzani

Posted by stephan | April 7th, 2011
comments (29)

In the brave new world of social media and bloggers most establishment magazines are still struggling to find their place online. The sea-changes of the digital age are a major challenge to the cushy relationship between publishing houses, editors and fashion brands, but also an opportunity for the ones willing to experiment and embrace this new way to interact with fashion consumers.

Case in point, Vogue Italia’s Franca Sozzani, who has a genius for picking up on popular cultural trends early on, seems to have embraced these changes with ease. As the fashion publishing world evolves, so does the role of editors; with daily blog posts and frequent Twitter updates, Sozzani has found new ways to connect with her audience, all while building an increasingly influential global brand.

In the 25 years since she started as editor in chief, Sozzani has had a birds eye view of the industry’s changing face; from the low-tech late 80s, to the onset of the blog age. Given her unique perspective and commitment to innovation, her insights on fashion’s current state and its future are invaluable.

ONE INTERVIEW // Franca Sozzani

An interview by One Mgmt‘s Christopher Michael for models.com

Franca Sozzani portrait by Francesco Carrozzini
All images courtesy of Vogue Italia

Christopher Michael: You have been the editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue since 1988. What sort of demands do you find yourself facing today that you did not have to deal with then?

Franca Sozzani: The fashion system has completely changed, so what was twenty-two years ago has nothing to do with today. Then, Italian Vogue was called the first experimental magazine. We didn’t even have so much sex in the beginning, but people were so conservative then that we were always dubbed the “experimental” magazine, and for the first two years, we suffered for this. Italian Vogue is an Italian magazine; it’s written in Italian, a language that is only spoken in Italy, so my idea was that in order to become international, we had to develop a visual language. At the time, photographers were appreciated, but not perceived as the artists or image-makers that they are today. Today, all magazines are hyper-visual—you buy any magazine and it’s one image after another. But we were the first magazine to prioritize the images—and this was, of course, before digital photography! Back then, we were always working on the lighting, and sending prints back and forth by Federal Express. Now you put images up on an FTP, and the next day you are already able to do the layout. Before computers, we did our layouts with tape and scissors. That seems like it was 200 years ago, but the big change has really been in the last ten or twelve years.

CM: Speaking of the visual language, another interesting choice you’ve made is the unprecedented ongoing relationship between Vogue Italia and Steven Meisel. It has to be asked, what reason was behind your decision to use one photographer for all of your covers for so long?

FS: I needed to have a consistent, recognizable look to every cover. My idea was that even if you took the word “Italia” off, you know what Vogue Italia is. Many magazines don’t seem to have a connection between one cover and the next, and it becomes hard to tell them apart. Especially today—images can be printed in such a high quality, but that also flattens them out, in a way. There’s a similar problem in fashion. Everyone can buy clothes—the most accessible clothes are not of the best quality, but unless you look at the label, you don’t know who it’s by. It’s this kind of oversaturation that makes me believe we are on the brink of another huge change.

CM: Italian Vogue, now more than ever, has really become a global brand. Do you believe that the time when markets were regional and separate is over? That we are becoming one global market?

FS: No. I believe that even today, there’s still an appreciation for the different system, or attitude, that each country has. What is surprising to me is how Vogue Italia is being appreciated in China, India, Korea, and Japan. This does not happen to every magazine. Sure, American Vogue has that, but they are an institution. Italy is not as powerful, but I think our international popularity goes back to your first question. The big difference between then and today is how much more conversant people are in visual language now. We can communicate because the language is no longer limited to words. It’s spoken in images.


March 1996 cover / Kate Moss


A Black Issue / July 2008 multiple covers | Sessilee Lopez, Liya Kebede, Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn

CM: Due to economics, many publishers want their magazine editors to work within safer creative boundaries. Vogue Italia seems to have managed to continue allowing its photographers the same creative freedom. How have you managed to maintain that?

FS: Most of the photographers at Italian Vogue—Bruce Weber, Paolo Roversi, Peter Lindbergh—they started with me. We have a special relationship, because we all started together. Even with people like Tim Walker and Craig McDean— we’ve been working together for so long, and there is a trust that develops in that kind of working relationship. Condé Nast gives you freedom. If you don’t disappoint them while using that freedom, you are able to keep it, and I’ve been there for twenty-five years.

CM: You write on your own blog every day. What was the catalyst for starting it?

FS: When we started the website, I was sure that we could find a distinct language for the web, which was not the same as the magazine. What is the difference? In a monthly magazine, you have time to think about the images, to figure out how to make the layouts, and all of that. The web is exactly the opposite: it’s quick and it has to be out. I thought that if I were to do a blog, I would again take the responsibility for developing a voice, as I did with creating the visual language for the magazine. I thought I could make it about more than just fashion—it could be about television, news, scandal—but I would take responsibility for what I say on it. I don’t want to destroy the image of anyone, and I always try to stand by what I say. As a result of my work with fashion and photography, I have credibility with a certain audience, and I can use that to branch out into different subjects. It doesn’t mean that I don’t get attacked from time to time, but on a blog, you can have a dialogue with your critics. I think it’s very important to take responsibility for what you say. Whenever you do something publically, you will have critics— when I started at Vogue, people were always saying things. I like the opportunity to have dialogue, but first I have to expose myself and take the risk. It can be very tiring—I write six days a week. But the site has been successful, with over one million unique hits this month alone. It’s been great.

CM: Your approach to fashion goes beyond the clothes. It seems to be a very culturally aware, or even philosophical approach. Is this something you consciously cultivate? Or is that just the way you experience fashion?

FS: When we talk about fashion, we should have two different points of view. There are people who are very creative—they make fashion. And there are people who are really good with product—they make style. When someone is very creative, even if their work doesn’t sell, follow them. They are opening up a new way. When you are talking about style—or styling—it’s different. Anyone can do styling, and make a “correct” show. But a creative show relies on thousands of little ideas underneath the surface. It’s very important to see this difference. Because instead of focusing on one “fashion,” you focus instead on different women.

You should not be provocative all the time, because if you are provocative all the time, people get tired of it. To be provocative every month means that you have to say the opposite of the issue from the month before. So you become unreliable. If you address the different kind of women that will always exist—the romantic, the chic, the perverse, the sexy—you encompass all of the fashion that you see. So I mix the two, the creatives and the people who are good with product, this brings something for each kind of woman; this is what I do.


January 2007 cover / Sasha Pivovarova

October 2006 cover / Nicole Richie


January 2005 cover / Caroline Trentini, Hannelore Knuts, Missy Rayder

July 2005 cover / Linda Evangelista

CM: What is the selection process for you when it comes to introducing new photographers and stylists to the magazine?

FS: Instinct. I do, or I don’t. When we started the website, I almost did the whole thing with interns. There are so many young, talented people, who have a great energy, an interesting approach. They see things a different way. I meet people and if I like them, I hire them and it starts this way.

CM: When you were growing up and in school, is this what you always dreamed of doing?

FS: No. When I was in school I didn’t even think about working. I thought I would get married, have children. I was in university and really loved to study, I loved art and books. I was never a disco girl. I believe in fate, I guess—things just happen the way they are meant to.

CM: And your charity work with Child Priority?

FS: The charity and the young talent, these are two things that I spend a lot of time on. The young talent especially because I think that a new generation has to come; we can’t keep our seats forever. The more talented people there are around me, the less work there is for me to do because they are good. Young designers, young photographers, it’s good to have new blood, a new generation and they know that what I promise, I always maintain. I’m not interested in doing a contest where you win and you go home and make your mother’s day, but then nothing happens. I’m interested in a structure that provides young talent with opportunity so that they can do consulting and earn money. All of the people we’ve helped through the charity by providing job opportunities are still working in their fields six years later, and they made it through the economic crisis. You must be creative of course, but today you also need to have a sense of media, and be able to talk to people. You need to be able to make a business plan, and understand what is the focus of your line, of your work. It’s like having thousands of children and watching them grow up. It’s amazing, we put certain new designers who were selling in only a few cities on Yoox.com—and all of a sudden, they are able to reach shoppers in fifty different countries.

CM: I hate to ask such a banal question, but I feel I must—do you feel that the web threatens your print sales?

FS: Not at all. I believe the website is doing a great job because it functions as a teaser for the magazine. September, October, and November our sales were up twenty-seven percent, and this is because of the web. Everyone has this idea that online will kill print, but it’s not true. Like everything else, it depends on how you do things..


December 1989 cover / Naomi, Linda, Christy
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comments (29)

29 Comments

  1. Octopus says:

    Great interview.

  2. The Boy from Newcastle says:

    By far the best MDX interview so far. I love you guys.

    http://boyfromnewy.blogspot.com/

  3. jackie says:

    so happy she did this interview. interesting points. Italian Vogue is my favorite.

  4. TeeVanity says:

    Just Great :-)

  5. Juju Kensan says:

    Great interview! It’s definitely refreshing to have another point of view of Fashion from one of the most influential editors.

    Though, I can’t help but notice that she taking a big jab at Carine Roitfeld.

  6. Seraphine Angel says:

    Love it.

  7. EnzoLaera says:

    Meet Franca 25 years ago when she was directing Per Lui and Lei .
    Fantastic cool mag for that time .She was and still always be a Brilliant
    woman.
    She has always .. Fantastic Statements.
    I’m proud to come from that Italian School.
    Thank you for the million lessons.

  8. Bertrand says:

    Such a brilliant visionary woman, so inspirational, creative & smart, I love her!

  9. trumancapote says:

    i truly have an adoration for italian vogue cos the cover story have always been such unforgivable push for fashion in a way that no 1 else can do…n yes of course we need to thank mr Meisel… but i ve also to say that the graphic s pretty bad compared to french vogue. (LOL)
    i also find very hypocrite when she talk about new talent cos the only one that s coming out s guess who? her son francesco carrozini who does most of the cover sotyr for L uomo vogue… which specking of was way better when that amazing lady of Anna dell Russo was in charge.. now pretty much look like a bad version of Fantastic man.. cos unfortunly she s using photographer not able to pull the soul out of the artist they r shootin…very few photographers can do fashion n portraits…
    any there s till only 1 vogue…n it s still the italian one :)

  10. francesco says:

    She is a great woman

  11. whythehate says:

    @Trumancapote why all the hate? What do you do anyways? After years of reading your constant criticisms of some of the industry’s most credible talent, one has to wonder, why all the hate?

  12. Tomorrow Started says:

    Well done. by far the best vogue next to the legacy french one. But franca needs to find her next Steven Meisel/Tim Walker duo to keep it going. Still to this day their work is the best in the pub and the rest are either dusty old photogs or young ones that the mag doesn’t use long enough to make an impact. The search must go on….

  13. noel says:

    i love the interview! Vogue Italia will always be the best fashion magazine on earth!

  14. GP says:

    Great interview. I want to be her:)

  15. Mimi says:

    A great point she makes is recognizing the difference in Styling and designing, feel that some parts of the world still don`t understand this concept! She is truly an inspiration to all the young talent! Dreams Are Free, So Free Your Dreams*

  16. Juan Cruz Prats says:

    What an inspiring and profound interview! It was brilliant, loved it! :)

  17. carola says:

    just great.. I wish all Vogues were like Italian Vogue, it’s the most original and cutting edge of them all.

  18. Jana says:

    She’s such a great positive person – and not full of herself like many other editors.

  19. Michael says:

    Her Vogue is the best Vogue. Great interview.

  20. umesh says:

    nicccccccccccccccccccccccceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  21. karen brandy says:

    Nice one, please i’ll luv 2 b one of your model, it has been my dream.

  22. Me says:

    The best Vogue and the most discrete and beautifully modest woman.

    Intelligent, vital, whole and stunning woman. The perfect kind of person in her position of power.

  23. Luigi says:

    Love this interview…..and she’s so right when she said ‘There are people who are very creative—they make fashion. And there are
    people who are really good with product—they make style… so true!!

  24. magazinem says:

    La Linda is amazing for VI. she needs another cover!

  25. Alex says:

    Wow, best interview so far. Keep it up!

  26. eli says:

    Italian Vogue is the best!!!!!
    US Vogue looks like a Catalogue!!!!!BOOORING

  27. Victoria says:

    Great interview!

  28. The man himself says:

    one of the most beautiful women in fashion

    god is a women

    byronmaedotcom

  29. barry says:

    Thank you for my start Franca. Wish I would have been a wiser man then. Merry Christmas 2011

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