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9 posts tagged "Vogue Italia"

Domestic Abuse Is Not In Vogue, No Matter How You Style It

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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.

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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 [1978],” 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.

Photo: vogue.it

Milan Puts Young Talent In The Corner

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Milan may be known for fashion powerhouses like Prada, Gucci, and Versace, but it seems the city has room for the little guy, too. Since 2011, YOOX Group’s luxury e-boutique, Thecorner.com, and Vogue Italia have been supporting emerging talents through their initiative The Vogue Talents Corner—a project that both highlights up-and-coming designers with an exhibition during Milan fashion week, and helps them build a retail presence by offering their wares on the shopping site. This year, the initiative champions eleven young ready-to-wear and accessories brands from across the globe, like Palmer//Harding (a shirt-centric range by Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding), Kristy Ward (necklace pictured left), Kzeniya (an accessories line by Kzeniya Oudenot, clutch pictured left) Vs2R (a footwear label by Vincenzo Somarrelli, pictured left) and J JS Lee (a ready-to-wear line by Jackie Lee, top pictured left). Each brand will showcase its Fall ’13 collection in an installation at the Palazzo Morando, which opens tonight. “For the most part, it’s instinct. And sometimes it’s simply what we like!” said Yoox.com founder and CEO Federico Marchetti when asked about the selection process. Marchetti explained that he looks for designers who exemplify creativity and innovation, and that this year he was particularly impressed by the group’s focus on craftsmanship and “excellent” materials. Looks from the eleven selected designers’ Spring ’13 collections will be available from today, on www.thecorner.com.

Franca Talk

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Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani has been hard at work fulfilling her duties as the first-ever Goodwill Ambassador for Fashion 4 Development, producing the African issue for L’Uomo Vogue and initiating global commerce partnerships with retailers like Yoox.com. Yesterday, she made her way to NYC for a roundtable discussion at the United Nations to talk about the organization’s progress and upcoming projects. She was joined by other fashion heavyweights committed to creating jobs in communities and sustainability around the world through fashion, including EDUN CEO Janice Sullivan, president of the Accessories Council Karen Giberson, and F4D founder Evie Evangelou.

Of the experience thus far, she told Style.com, “I learned that nothing is impossible. I already knew, but now I am sure.” She continued, “We met so many young people [while traveling around Africa], some of them are very talented and some are not—not all of us could be the editor in chief of a magazine, everyone has a different story. But I put this group of designers together and they made a good collection and it sold out in two weeks on Yoox.” Sozzani admitted she has identified several talented African designers who might some day land their collections on the runways in the major fashion cities and that she’s currently working on a partnership with Saks to showcase some of these designers. For now, however, the plan is still in its earlier stages. “We don’t have money to make a showroom for them yet. I am the showroom,” she said, laughing.

In the meantime, they are striving to establish fashion business partnerships in Africa like China and Brazil have set into place. Sozzani pointed out, however, that the situation in Africa is not like China. “No one ever told them the richness of their work is worth more than they are getting paid for their craft,” she said. She has started trying to change that by prompting major designers to create small collections and have them produced in Africa. “It doesn’t mean the clothes will look African, it just means they are being produced there and creates more jobs. Lots of designers are joining us on this,” she said. On the subject of major designers, it was announced that the organization has a big project lined up with the likes of Donatella Versace and Roberto Cavalli, with more details coming on that soon. When reminded that while she was talking about her latest do-good endeavors in Africa, the menswear shows are still in full swing, she responded, “I am not missing the men’s shows; I don’t like them at all. To see a beautiful woman walking down the runway is so different. Some men’s collection are really nice (Prada’s was amazing), but some are just ridiculous, you know?”

Photo: Courtesy Photo

Pitti Uomo Chases Down Valentino, Woos Olympia Le-Tan

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After a toast to a new season, a coming new year, and—hurrahs all around—a new Italian government, Pitti Immagine CEO Raffaello Napoleone briefed the crowd gathered for lunch in New York this afternoon on what to expect for the next editions of Pitti Uomo and Pitti W, the menswear and womenswear trade fairs in Florence that have become an increasingly important stop on the global fashion circuit. As has been announced, Valentino will be the invited guest at the menswear fair, where creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli (left) will present their men’s collection on the runway for the first time, after several seasons of showroom appointments in Paris. “We were following them like dogs,” Napoleone told the room with a laugh. “Very hungry.” Every dog, it turns out, has his day.

Also at the men’s fair, Andrea Pompilio, winner of last year’s Who Is On Next award, given by Vogue Italia, will present his collection, as will the revived English suiting line Hardy Amies. The invited guest for the women’s fair is accessory designer Olympia Le-Tan. The designer, who studied Italian literature in university, will create a special collection inspired by classic Italian books.

The fair will also host exhibitors drawn from around the world, many coming for the first time. The Alexander McQueen contemporary collection, McQ, will make its Pitti debut, as will Jimmy Choo’s men’s collection. Milan Vukmirovic, the former Trussardi designer, will preview his new Chevignon Heritage collection. And in New Beat(s), a special section devoted to first-time showings, 20 Japanese brands and designers will show their work, selected by Yuichi Yoshii and produced in cooperation with Japan fashion week.

Photo: Courtesy of Pitti Immagine

Prada’s Glasses Get A Starring Role

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Prada’s wild Minimal Baroque shades are more or less made for the stage: The statement specs shown on the Spring ’11 runway are dramatic enough for a starring role. So the label is giving them just that. To launch two new pairs from the collection, Prada commissioned eight young photographers to shoot the styles. Selected in conjunction with Vogue Italia and its Vogue Talents supplement, which promotes emerging artists and designers in fashion and art, the photogs were given marching orders interpret the styles in a “pop-comic manner.” The results ranged from dunking the frames in a bowl of breakfast cereal (complete with banana smiley face) to staging a meeting between the sunglasses and a wayward giraffe. Above, two exclusive photos from the series, by Federica di Giovanni and Kuba Dabrowski. The entire portfolio will go up on Vogue.it this week, when the prints and new glasses will also hit stores.

Photos: Courtesy of Prada