Vogue Italia`s "Black" issue in July 2008 is filled entirely with black models and articles on black culture and lifestyle.
Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani didn`t get to the top by playing it safe and going for glamor. She got there through creativity and controversy, being contrarian, witty and often political.
In her 23 years at the helm of Vogue Italia, Sozzani has been known for doing the unexpected and flying in the face of convention. She`s made a fortune through her audacity and insight on hot-button topics, and won a huge personal following that reads her blog on Vogue.it and follows her on Twitter.
Critics say she`s into stunts, not fashion. She doesn`t care.
She drenched models and the latest fashions in crude oil in August 2010 after the BP oil spill, posing them on a polluted beach. She was accused of glamorizing tragedy. This summer, as the world worshipped stick-thin models, her "Dream Women" or "Curvy" issue featured three-plus-size models, some in lingerie and braless as they drank Champagne, smoked cigarettes and draped themselves over fancy furniture. She has called on governments to take down pro-anorexia websites.
While the world worshipped tall blond East European models, she came out with the "Black" issue in July 2008, filled entirely with black models and articles on black culture and lifestyle. She featured machine-gun toting models in black leather for the "State of Emergency" in September 2006- and was accused of making light of terrorism. In September 2009 featured Rihanna in bondage gear for an "Extreme Couture" issue.
To name a few.
It all worked. Sozanni has transformed Vogue Italia from a domestic trade publication into the world`s most influential fashion magazine, despite its relatively small circulation of 140,000 (compared with the 1.3 million readership of the more commercial American Vogue).
Her Vogue has traditionally been the most arty, intellectual and uncompromising of the Vogues. Every month, readers wait impatiently to see what Vogue Italia has in store.
"Real creativity, the one that changes the history of a magazine, is and should be the characteristic of an Editor in Chief," she writes in her blog.
Sozanni, who is now 61, was in Shanghai last week on a personal visit to get acquainted with young Chinese designers. It was her first extended visit to China and we chatted at length.
Instead of being "Devil Wears Prada"-type of high-powered, glam editor, Europe`s fashion empress is serene and down-to-earth. The diminutive Italian editor is sometimes compared to Botticelli`s famous painting of Venus Rising from the Sea because of her similar calm expression, elongated face, long, wavy blond hair and clear blue eyes. She wore a simple Dolce & Gabbana dress and Manolo Blahnik stilettos.
"Sincerely, I want to understand the fashion landscape here," she said, speaking with a heavy Italian accent, adding that she wanted to learn about young designers and showcase their work in Europe. She also wanted to explore a China connection for Vogue Italia and her website (http://www.vogue.it).
Last year in February, Sozzani selected and presented two Chinese designers` works during Milan Fashion Week and through yoox.com, an e-commerce platform, and said they sold quite well in Italy. She plans to showcase more talent.
"The Chinese have been labeled as the producers but it`s important to cultivate a new generation with creativity. Otherwise, you only produce and manufacture for other people and it`s a pity,`` she said. "In Italy we always produce but at the same time we have great labels. It`s important to have a group of creative people to have their own lines.``
From the very beginning of her career at Vogue, Sozanni has been committed to fostering new talent.