Franca Sozzani, the editor of Vogue Italia for twenty-eight years, who has died aged 66, was renowned for her eye for creative talent, and her ability to bring together extraordinary photographers, models, stylists, and artists to produce images and stories for her book that didn’t just form part of the cultural conversation, they frequently set the creative agenda too.
Back in the summer of 2011 I was asked if I would like to interview her for LLG, as she held court in London, talent-spotting for her magazine. Her ceaseless quest for the new and the best shone through our conversation, and her desire to engage with the new digital order was impressive, especially when compared with her peer group at that time.
I am running that story again today in her honour:
Yesterday I met with Franza Sozzani, editor of Vogue Italia, who had landed at the Harvey Nichols flagship store in Knightsbridge to conduct the third in her series of ‘Vogue Experiences’. They’re a clever concept, as near to a roadshow as Ms Sozzani will ever get. Essentially she asks young creatives to turn up, clutching their portfolios, and she and her team speak to each attendee, advising and talent spotting. It’s win win really for Sozzani: she gets to extend the Vogue Italia brand and to talent spot the next generation.
Harvey Nichols did some grade A talent-wrangling of its own, and a slew of London’s editors (Sarah Mower, Katie Grand, Hilary Alexander) and designers (Erdem, Christopher Kane, Mr Blahnik, Giles Deacon and more), pitched up throughout the day to meet the young hopefuls, dole out advice and encouragement and sit on a panel which also included a Q&A with Franca Sozzani and Lisa Armstrong.
I spoke to Sozzani just before the event on the Fourth Floor kicked off. The subject of blogging, since her broadside in her editor’s blog in January, where she described bloggers as ‘a viral epidemic’, seemed like a good place to start our conversation. I reminded her of my background – senior editor turned digital evangelist and then dived straight in. The word ‘blogger’ was barely mentioned before she was off like a greyhound at the traps, clearly much exercised by the subject and speaking so fast and passionately that I could barely keep up with my note taking:
“They all attack me because ‘I don’t like bloggers’. It’s not true at all: l love the bloggers. In the morning I read blogs. I look at bloggers in any fields. Blogs can be used in a very creative way and it is very inspiring for us to read blogs from different countries, different mentalities, different vision. It’s very important.”
She goes on to explain that the freedom of expression in the medium of blogging is what appeals to her, especially given the trammelled world of magazine publishing.
“I love bloggers when they talk about fashion, events, people and this way it is very clean, not like on magazines (where we) know the politics of a situation, what we have to do, what not to do.
After all, even a magazine that continually pushes boundaries like Vogue Italia still has to think of its advertisers. No ads, no mag.
It’s the issue of blog quality control that clearly exercises Ms Sozzani and was in part responsible for her diatribe last January. She seems to be singing from the same sheet as Cathy Horyn in this regard (Cathy recently called for fashion bloggers to be more rigorous in their reporting): “When someone has the freedom (of expression they should) use it in the best way. You have to keep the distance from the people who want to use the blog to talk in a bad way about other people or stupid people or to be mean or uninformed”
“It (blogging) is a responsibility. Use it well. Sometimes better to be silent. Or find a way to explain your point of view, not just writing yes no yes no.”
We moved on to talk about the Vogue Experience and her motivation for opening up what has essentially been a closed shop.
“(Magazines) are more closed, a niche. In this way we open (our doors) and they see behind there is a person who cares. It (the Vogue Experience) is work but its the only way to find the new generation to help them”
“I love to meet young people: it’s not only that they learn from me, I learn a lot from them because they are very generous in the way they approach you. They tell you their dreams, their work. But you have to be responsible. You have to find a way, the right direction to tell them (about their work). You can’t say yes or no.”
This was the third Vogue Experience: “We did it in Milan, in Rome, and hired a lot of people. We found people who knew far more about things than we did: one, he knows everything about movies so now he writes about cinema for us…We have 70 internships from January to now from the two events. We have also photographers.”
Franca Sozzani’s closing words should hold out hope for the young talent approaching her at these events:”If we promise: we do.”
Thank you to Franca Sozzani and to Harvey Nichols.