Franca Sozzani was the editor of Vogue Italia from 1988 up until her tragic death in 2016. Her work was considered controversial and she received constant backlash from critics about her Vogue Italia covers. Unfazed by the critics, she continued to create the most talked about magazine issues.
1. The Black Issue- July 2008
The Black Issue was about celebrating the black women not only in fashion but art, politics and entertainment. The issue was internationally acclaimed and sold out in the United States and the United Kingdom within 72 hours. An additional 30,000 copies were printed for U.S. news stands and 30,000 more for European news stands. The issue of diversity in fashion was largely ignored in the mid 2000's and Franca Sozzani decided to celebrate black culture when no other magazine was. This issue was not about setting a trend but about celebrating a culture that had always been there but had largely been ignored. It is a culture that will continue to exist even after the current trends of braiding hair, hoop earrings and twerking fade away.
2. Makeover Madness- July 2005
This issue was a critique on the plastic surgery industry and its effects on upper class women. Plastic surgery is largely only affordable to privileged upper class women, even a basic lip injection can set you back 2 grand. This obsession with not only having luxury fashion items but a perfect body that you can buy is what I believe Franca Sozzani was exploring in this issue. More than a decade later we are still obsessing over cosmetic procedures that will make us feel part of the elite class. It is one thing to change your wardrobe every season to stay relevant to the trends but changing your face will surely have larger consequences. It highlights how even women who have amassed enough wealth and success to afford high end luxuries still feel insecure about their faces and bodies. This magazine cover highlights how most women no matter how successful will still tie their self-worth to how well they look.
3. The Latest Wave- August 2010
The cover for this issue was referencing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico on the 20th of April, 2010. It was considered the largest marine oil spill in history. The model on the cover looks like a beached mermaid covered in oil which is symbolic of the destruction to the natural environment done by the oil spill. Deciding to pull inspiration from the oil spill was seen by critics as insensitive but Franca Sozzani was as always unfazed by the backlash. Franca Sozzani draws inspiration from her environment to inform her editorial choices. This cover also challenged the notion that fashion magazines are unable to comment on serious newsworthy events.
4. Avant Garde- September 2011
Avant Garde means new and experimental and the cover for this issue was a homage to Ethel Granger (1905-1982) who used corsets to experiment with her body to create a new one which boasted a 13 inch waist. It was an interesting editorial choice that this issue was released 3 months after the 'Curvy Issue' which celebrated women who had fuller bodies. Franca Sozzani was showing the contrasts between women who have natural curves to a digitally enhanced image of a model who has had her waist shrunk down to an almost impossible size. Franca Sozzani loved to subvert the expectations of not only fashion magazines but also what you could expect from her next cover.
5. State of Emergency- September 2006
This issue was about how the world had changed since the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in America. The images in the issue showcased ideas of instability and lack of safety. Most media publication on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks focus on the bravery of first responder's or the tragedy of the lives lost in the gruesome attacks. However, Franca Sozzani chose to focus on the effects the attacks had on those of us who perhaps watched them on television or saw the images of the attacks from a distance. Although many people lost their lives and loved ones the tragic event also took away our ability to feel safe and secure. The images in these photographs reflect that loss of safety and provoke us to examine the societal changes that occurred after the events of 9/11.
I believe Franca Sozzani's magazine covers were more than just about fashion and trends they were critiques about society. Her editorial choices were controversial and yet brave. You can now view all of her covers on the online archives of the Vogue Italia magazines until June 13th, 2020. The archive dates back to 1964 and is such an amazing resource to use for inspiration, a learning experience or just to kill some time.