20 posts tagged "Franca Sozzani"
My mother used to work with Haven, a shelter for abused women, when we lived in Detroit. One night, she came home very shaken up after a meeting for the charity. I asked her what was wrong, and she recounted a 911 call she’d listened to, in which a little boy was trying to save his mother, who had been beaten by her boyfriend. The boy kept saying, “My mommy’s not moving,” and just before hanging up, told the operator, “My mommy’s dead.” I was 10 years old at this time, and at that age, I had no idea such horror existed in the world. I sobbed for hours, and to this day, I feel sick when I think about that little boy, that haunting call, and that woman whose life was stolen from her.
I don’t care who shoots it—a scenario like that one cannot, and should not, be translated into a fashion photograph. Franca Sozzani, however, attempted to do just that in her April issue of Vogue Italia, which hits newsstands today.
Sozzani, who serves as the editor in chief of Condé Nast Italia, as well as Vogue Italia, is an original and often fearless creative thinker, and she has frequently addressed hot-button issues through the pages of her glossy magazine. In 2005, she ran a clever editorial about plastic surgery. In 2007, she produced an issue that tackled the elite’s rising obsession with rehab. These editions sparked controversy, too—and Sozzani should be commended for her commitment to asking important questions through her often forward-thinking spreads. But the abovementioned problems more or less affect the privileged classes, and the shoots were done in a certain tongue-in-cheek manner. That approach is not appropriate when discussing domestic abuse.
I’m sure that April’s Steven Meisel-lensed cover story, dubbed “Horror Movie,” was conceived with the best intentions. In a statement, Sozzani explained, “Violence towards women has never been so hard-hitting as it is now, so reminiscent of a ‘real horror show’…The intent is in no way to shock, but rather to raise awareness of a horror that must be condemned!” However, “Horror Movie” takes away from the seriousness of the topic at hand.
The first problem is that, while it’s allegedly meant to raise awareness and provoke conversation, this spread is still selling clothes. It’s using violence to push product. The images—like the one of Natalie Westling laying bloodied and lifeless on the floor in a red Moschino dress, ruffled Melissa Levy garters, and Alexander Wang shoes, her lover slumped in a chair, staring at her while drenched in her blood—are underscored by clothing credits. How can a photograph like this be seen as respectful and empowering to domestic abuse victims, or even taken seriously, when it reads, “chiffon smock, Marc Jacobs” in the corner?
Furthermore, these images are glamorous. They star young women dressed to the nines in the hottest new wares. The models’ faces are elegantly painted, and the girls look pretty while cowering in the corner, hiding from a man with a knife, or grasping at a railing, pressed against a wall smeared with blood. Abuse is not glamorous, and the brutalization of women should never be portrayed as beautiful, especially in a fashion magazine. Additionally, these images are based off of classic horror films, and by design there’s an almost comic quality to them. In a different context, as a commentary on our addiction to the nasty thrills of the ever-popular horror genre, say, they might have worked. The problem arises when Sozzani claims the intent is specifically to raise awareness of domestic abuse. Abuse isn’t funny, period.
Of course, we’ve seen images like these before—in varying degrees of offensiveness and insensitivity. There’s Helmut Newton, whose sexualized photographs of naked women in heels or bonded with rope bordered on misogyny. There’s the particularly macabre Guy Bourdin, who often posed models as if they were dead—one of his snaps features a made-up woman lying in a pool of blood; another depicts two dead models, the first hanging from a noose, the second naked on a table. “Fear is something that we, despite ourselves, want to experience. And I think the violence does add glamour in a kind of perverse way,” Nick Knight told the Guardian while speaking about Bourdin’s photographs back in 2003. I don’t necessarily agree with these images. But in the cases of Newton and Bourdin, the male character isn’t pictured, there’s an air of mystery and ambiguity, and the women aren’t explicitly being abused. And—though again I wouldn’t necessarily concur as quickly as some male critics would—you can argue that these are two great artists walking the line in the way that great artists are driven to do.
Vogue Italia‘s latest outing also calls to mind last year’s Vice editorial, in which models were snapped while pretending to commit suicide. Unsurprisingly, the shoot sparked public outrage. Fashion photographs have an element of fantasy, and, as Knight mentioned, there is something unsettlingly sexy about death—this has been the case throughout history (Sir John Everett Millais’ 1852 painting Ophelia comes to mind). But suicide, and domestic abuse, don’t fall into a “fantasy” category. They’re tragedies that real people struggle with every day. “Photography is such a powerful medium, which we read as being a literal depiction of reality,” explained curator and fashion historian Dr. Valerie Steele when I asked her about this particular issue. “It can be very problematic when you have images of violence that have been staged for a photograph. The image of the fashion model being physically attacked and murdered is one that has considerable existence in pop culture, considering films like the Eyes of Laura Mars ,” she continued. “That further complicates the issue of trying to make a photograph have an ideological point against violence, since the exploitation of violence against beautiful young fashion models is something that has another fantasy existence, apparently.”
It seems strange to me that, judging by social media and editorial responses, people can’t seem to make up their minds about “Horror Movie.” Perhaps they’re afraid to take a stance because, as I mentioned before, it may have been created with the best intentions. But just because one’s intentions are good, doesn’t mean the results are, too.
During her twenty-six-year tenure at Vogue Italia, Sozzani has successfully confronted a bevy of heavy global concerns. For instance, her July 2008 issue, which featured only black models, was the magazine’s best-selling edition. She has proven to be one of the most progressive editors of the last thirty years, constantly championing young designers; driving Italian fashion forward conceptually, commercially, and creatively; and helping her readers to understand fashion in a broader cultural context. This misstep won’t change that.
Sozzani’s more tasteful attempts, as well as efforts by the likes of Vivienne Westwood (always fighting to save the environment), Iman (who frequently speaks out on behalf of models of color), and Riccardo Tisci (who’s aimed to rectify the lack of diversity in the biz with his multicultural runways and Spring ’14 ad campaign), prove that fashion can have an impact. Considering ours is one of the biggest industries on the planet, we can absolutely change the world through fashion. We can get important messages across in magazines, during runway shows, through garments, and in newspaper articles. We just can’t do it like this.
“Viva Italia!” says London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. For its latest exhibition, The Glamour of Italian Fashion: 1945-2014, the institution has embraced la dolce vita, filling its hallowed halls with all things Italiani. The show charts Italy’s growth as a fashion powerhouse, from the first fashion shows at the Sala Bianca in the 1950s through the symbolic development of the Made in Italy label, and into the 21st century via a dazzling array of new designer names.
The exhibition endeavors to shed light on how Italian glamour first came to be. And while Italy might not now have the same clout on the global fashion scene as it did in the late 20th century, the exhibition explores the transformative power Italian glam has always held and—via video interviews with Angela Missoni, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, and Vogue Italia‘s Franca Sozzani—hints at what the country’s sartorial future may hold.
While Milan’s big hitters (like Valentino, above) obviously get their deserved time in the spotlight, it’s heartening to see the likes of Fausto Puglisi and Stella Jean in the installation, too, especially considering Milan’s tough reputation for emerging designers. Here, Style.com speaks with curator Sonnet Stanfill, herself wearing a modern design from Fausto Puglisi, about Italian fashion’s humble beginnings, the evolution of Milan fashion week, and the power of glamour.
Why was now the right time to look at Italian glamour?
I think we’re opening at a really interesting time. The Camera Nazionale della Moda recently appointed a British female executive, Jane Reeve, to the new position of CEO, indicating their own awareness that they really need to shake things up. There’s been a lot of anxiety-ridden self-examination within the Italian fashion industry about its own future. We wanted to bring that debate within the four walls of the museum, so that’s why we ended the show with those filmed interviews with designers responding to questions about the future, about the difficulties of doing business in Italy today. Opening now feels timely because Italy is at a crossroads.
What makes Italian fashion so distinctive?
It’s multilayered. One key aspect is the strength of the country’s production, which is a unique feature of the Italian fashion system—you have whole valleys of the countryside dedicated to one kind of product. Silk in Como, leather goods in Tuscany, wool in Biella. That specialism has resulted in products of an extremely high quality. So that emphasis on materials, specialization, and techniques runs right throughout the exhibition.
Do you think there is a need for new energy and fresh talent within Italy?
I absolutely do. If we had more space, I would have included more young names. We’ve been able to include designers like Stella Jean, whose Haitian-Roman parentage makes her Italian, but she sources textiles from Burkina Faso. And we’ve got Fausto Puglisi, whom I admire very much and who is a passionate supporter of Made in Italy. He sources his leather from Tuscany, his silk from Como. He’s obsessed about the craft. And that’s the type of voice that Italy needs for its future: that passion and dedication to materials, excitement, an original voice. I think he’s got a great future ahead of him.
What do you think Milan fashion week can do to reassert itself on a global stage?
Milan itself recognizes that it has to do more to support young designers. Franca Sozzani and her talent contest, Who Is on Next, in collaboration with Altaroma, does quite a bit to scout and mentor young designers. Stella Jean is a product of that contest. But more needs to be done in that area, and it’s still notoriously difficult to break into the Milan calendar. Fausto Puglisi describes breaking into the Milan fashion industry as going into battle.
The V&A’s exhibitions often like to put things into a broader context. Was that important in the making of The Glamour of Italian Fashion?
You can see that from the first moment you walk into the show, with a large photograph of Florence bombed in 1946 after the war. The easy thing to do would have been to launch into the Sala Bianca and its beautiful gowns, but I really wanted our visitor to understand what Italy looked like then. It was poor. It had only 50 percent literacy at that time. Most people worked as farmers, and in order to understand the true glamour of the Sala Bianca catwalk and what that meant for Italy, you really had to know that it was coming from a place of near despair. It’s a powerful contrast.
Why do you think we are so drawn to glamour?
I think fashion is a very optimistic enterprise. Because when you are buying a dress or choosing elements for your wardrobe, there is an act of self-creation involved, and with fashion itself, there is a dynamic of optimism with the changes involved. You’re thinking, If I just buy this one dress, I might look completely different! The word optimism is very apt for a lot of the fashion stories told here. There’s a lot of entrepreneurship involved—these are designers who start from nothing and can create fashion houses from nowhere.
What are some of your favorite pieces in the exhibition?
One of my favorites is the design by Mila Schön for Lee Radziwill to wear to Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball. It has long sleeves and silver sequins in a beautiful meandering pattern. We have a photograph of her dancing with Truman Capote on the catwalk, which shows that she has already checked her coat, but I think that evening coat and dress combination feels very 1960s. But what I really love is that the dress tells a wider story. It was worn by a woman who was known for her French couture wardrobe, and she chose an Italian to dress her for what Gloria Steinem described as “the party of the year” in Vogue. So only fifteen years after the first Italian fashion show in 1951, we have one of the best-dressed women in the world choosing a designer like Mila Schön for a party as grand as that. I love it on many levels.
The Glamour of Italian Fashion: 1945-2014 runs at the Victoria & Albert Museum through July 27.
Today in Milan, a panel of judges including Style.com’s Tim Blanks, Franca Sozzani, Angelica Cheung, Frida Giannini, Colin McDowell, and Alexa Chung selected the winner of the coveted International Woolmark Prize. Competitors included the States’ Joseph Altuzarra (who will be sending us a diary chronicling his experience), the U.K.’s Sibling, Asia’s Ffixxed, Australia’s Christopher Esber, and Rahul Mishra, who represented India and the Middle East. So which talent won the judges’ affections? That would be Mishra. Having shown a lineup focused on embroidery, the designer will take home $100,000 AU in prize money, and his Woolmark collection will be stocked in such retailers as Saks Fifth Avenue, 10 Corso Como, Harvey Nichols, and Joyce.