Franca Sozzani, the editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia since 1988, has died after a year-long illness. According to Vogue, Sozzani "was known for her pioneering themed issues of Vogue which pushed boundaries and asked questions about the perception of beauty in fashion."
“Franca was one of the greatest editors who ever made a magazine,” Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and chief executive of Condé Nast, said today. “She was by far the most talented, influential and important person within the Condé Nast International organization. She made Italian Vogue a powerful and influential voice in the worlds of fashion and photography by publishing ground-breaking photography and journalism. In doing so she expanded Vogue beyond what had been the traditional model of a fashion magazine and often courted controversy by doing so. The greatest fashion photographers looked to Franca as the creative leader who would give them the freedom and the scope to produce their best work and they did so, month after month.”
Of Sozzani, American Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, wrote on Thursday: "In private, Franca was warm, clever, funny, and someone who could give the Sphinx a run for its money when it comes to keeping a confidence."
Wintour continued: "She was also the hardest-working person I have known, and with an envy-inducing ease with multitasking. She made everything she worked on appear effortless, regardless of whether it was an event for several hundred; a whirlwind trip to Africa to support the continent’s emerging designers; or the creation of yet another newsworthy, provocative, and utterly spellbinding issue of Italian Vogue."
In a 2013 article devoted to Sozzani, the Telegraph's fashion features editor, Kate Finnegan, spoke to the late editor's impeccable style. Finnegan stated, "Clichés wiped off the slate immediately, there's something languorous and otherworldly about Sozzani. Or perhaps astute and medieval." Her choice of outfit: "A black wool full Chanel skirt to the knee, a cropped wool Dolce & Gabbana jacket, a black top by Comme des Garçons and leopard-print Manolo Blahnik slippers. Accessories are a gold Cartier watch and dangling antique earrings; her hair is loose, legs bare. As behoves her position, Sozzani has her own style down pat. Unlike other editors, she refuses to wear clothes in the season they're designed for."
As for her work, New York Magazine shed light, writing: "Sozzani seemed less concerned with commerce than did many of her counterparts, and she allowed her creative collaborators unlimited artistic freedom. She was also eager to grapple with politics, for better or for worse. The editorials she worked on explored some hot-button issues, like plastic surgery and body image (notably, she cast a 2011 cover shoot with three plus-size models; meanwhile, a plus-size model has yet to appear on the cover of American Vogue)."
The spreads often ran afoul of political correctness, at best, or earned accusations of racism and tone-deafness, at worst. For example: A shoot themed around oil spills, in the wake of the BP disaster; putting a model in blackface; an Iraq War–themed fashion shoot; and “Haute Mess,” a notorious editorial that earned cries of racism and classism. She told New York Magazine's The Cut blog in 2012 that she was committed to her headline-baiting ways: “You can just take pictures like in a catalog so you will never be controversial, but that’s not my choice of life.”
“Franca was one of those people who really was legendary,” British Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman said. “Powerful, beautiful, intelligent and creatively adventurous, she was the perfect archetype of a Vogue editor and will be very much missed by those who have worked with her and admired her for many years.”