Franca Sozzani was a fashion powerhouse. Born on the 20th January 1950, she began her career working as a secretary for the mass media company, Conde Nast. A company which she became the Editorial Director of in 1994. Serving as the Editor-in-Chief of Italian Vogue for 28 years, Sozzani was the figure head behind some of the most important and bold choices made by any fashion magazine, and possesses a legacy that has left the fashion world feeling incredibly inspired following her death on the 22nd December 2016.
Sozzani was known in fashion for her bold editorial decisions; creating a magazine that not only featured high end fashion, but also a magazine that had depth. Sozzani’s magazine reflected a social context that was not necessarily what readers wanted to see, and yet was featured anyway due to its relevance in modern society. In 2008, Sozzani created what was known as The Black Issue, an edition of Vogue Italia featuring exclusively women of colour, an issue that was so in demand it had to be printed twice. Naomi Campbell then went on to describe to The New York Times how ‘Franca doesn’t realise what she’s done for people of colour’, stressing the importance of exclusivity in an industry that is infamous for the lack of diversity.
Franca Sozzani was not just the Editor-in-Chief of Italian Vogue. She was a powerful woman who saw the importance of the link between fashion and the current social situation. It can be seen that Sozzani’s most important work was that which reflected the world her readers were living in. In the July 2005 issue of Italian Vogue, the editorial ‘Makeover Madness’ received a mixed response due to its portrayal of the invasive nature of plastic surgery. The April 2014 shoot ‘Horror Movie’ by Sozzani’s long-time collaborator, Steven Meisel, received a similar response. Featuring bloody images of couples, the emotional photographs were a response to the rise of domestic violence in Italy.
When describing her friend in an article written in honour of her incredibly legacy, the Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, describes how Franca was ‘the hardest-working person I have known, with an envy-inducing ease with multitasking’. Sozzani’s passion for her work can be seen not only through her incredible contribution to fashion, but also through her passion for the awareness for social issues. As the Global Ambassador against hunger for the United Nations World Food Programme, Sozzani has campaigned for the empowerment and education of women and girls, and has also served as the Goodwill Ambassador for Fashion 4 Development. Sozzani also co-founded Child Priority with Jonathan Newhouse, a non-profit organisation assisting underprivileged children to find education, and served as the creative director of Convivio, an AIDS initiative launched by Gianni Versace in 1992.
Whilst sometimes controversial, with the Italian Vogue shoot in the August 2010 edition of the magazine that was inspired by the BP oil spill receiving great criticism, it is clear that Franca Sozzani made an incredible impact, not just in fashion, but also through her charity work, and this legacy will live on.