x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Franca Sozzani: a woman of substance

Before the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience happens this October, we chatted with Franca Sozzani, the influential editor of Vogue Italia.

Franca Sozzani at Milan menswear fashion week. Jacopo Raule / Getty Images for Philipp Plein
Franca Sozzani at Milan menswear fashion week. Jacopo Raule / Getty Images for Philipp Plein

Franca Sozzani is arguably the most influential woman in Italian fashion today. Having been the editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia for 25 years, she is the longest-serving head of Condé Nast’s fashion standard, along with her US counterpart Anna Wintour. We met her in Italy as Men’s Fashion Week wrapped up in Milan

You’ve held your current position since 1988. What has been the pinnacle so far or is it yet to come?

I think that I’ve been very lucky because when I first arrived, the fashion world was less crowded than it is today. There weren’t many “Vogues” or brands, so I had time to improve my knowledge about fashion, step-by-step.

I took time to learn about the new designers, photographers and people in the industry. I grew with them and the system. So, in a way it was the most interesting time from the end of the 1980s until now; it has been 25 years in which the fashion world has completely changed.

We had nothing to do with big distribution back then, as we do today. And fashion was not democratic at all. It’s a bit like the Emirates and Dubai, I suppose, back then it was beginning its development, too. So now when you go to Dubai and see The Dubai Mall, for example, you can’t quite believe that such huge things have come about. Fashion can touch everyone, everywhere. It’s a very interesting time, a huge evolution has taken place.

In recent years, you famously launched Vogue Curvy, but will the industry ever realistically break away from the “size zero” -mentality?

You know what? I think that all magazines, even fashion ones, cannot escape the reality of today and the world we’re living in. That’s why we’ve recently done an issue about cosmetic surgery because today, some people are obsessed with it and the pursuit of looking youthful. I thought this was a good way to -highlight it.

I did the same thing with the “Black issue” of the magazine. Because I couldn’t understand why we only saw one black girl on the catwalk, or just one Ukrainian girl, just one 35-year-old? I didn’t get it.

I knew there to be so many beautiful girls out there so I did something that had never been done before and it was very welcomed.

The issue happened to came out on the exact same day that Barack Obama won against Hillary. We were very lucky with the timing and it was a statement, in a way. It’s important to remember that fashion is not only about the catwalk and some genius sitting alone in a room creating designs. You need to deal with the real people in the industry to truly understand what’s going on.

Key players within the fashion industry have a reputation for

being somewhat formidable and the business is often seen as intimidating. Have you seen The Devil Wears Prada? Is there any scrap of truth to it?

I saw it, of course [laughs]. What really made me laugh were [the references to] the cappuccinos – I’m obsessed with them, that bit is true. But that’s just one small thing. While I thought the film was funny, nobody could possibly behave like [Runway editor, Miranda Priestly] in the industry, believe me.

Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of US Vogue, was famously parodied in the movie. How often do you speak, and do you get on well?

We actually started together at Vogue in exactly the same year, me in July, and her in the October issue. We have a very good relationship and she’s the one editor I relate to most.

Are there any key catwalk trends you’d flag-up for autumn/winter 2013 or spring/summer 2014, as recently seen in Milan?

Honestly, I usually don’t think it’s important to follow trends. It’s important to be who you are and know what to wear at the right moment. Don’t let others dictate what you should wear or how you should wear it. It’s about being yourself.

What would you say are some evergreen pieces for any modern woman?

I would say that they should have flat shoes, a white shirt and a normal pair of good trousers or a simple skirt. To be over the top or over-trendy, it’s very tiring. [With my personal style] I feel Italian 100 per cent, and while I can be elegant as an Italian woman I’m more international in terms of choice. I don’t like to be too conservative.

Finally, this October, more than 250 fashion brands will come together for the inaugural Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience on October 10. Fashion shows will be staged in The Dubai Mall and you’ll be on the ground holding mentoring sessions with aspiring designers from the region and beyond. What sold the project to you?

Firstly, I’m really excited to be coming to Dubai, I really like the city. I think it’s an amazing, contemporary place and I believe this Vogue experience will be different to anything we’ve done before. Dubai has become a “fashion city” for me, no other place in the world currently offers such space or opportunity on the consumer and fashion side. So that’s why The Dubai Mall is where it will all take place. There will be young designers from the UAE showing, alongside regional and international ones from Bahrain, to Nigeria to Italy – and we’ll do our best to advise them. There will be a gala dinner, too, where the funds raised will go to the Dubai Cares charity, which is focused on education, empowering and furthering the possibilities for the young.

Editor’s choice

What she wore

A drop-waisted cream dress from Topshop & velvet Manolo Blahnik kitten heels.

The trend she doesn’t favour

“Big shoulders.”

How she relaxes

By reading La vie rêvée d’Ernesto G by Jean-Michel Guenassia.

What she’d save if her house was on fire

Her pet pooch, Laszlo.

How she would like to be remembered

“As an innovative person who discovered a generation of photographers and designers.”


Follow @francasozzani



Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience

The largest international fashion event to be staged in the UAE.

The one-day event will be held at The Dubai Mall and in partnership with Vogue Italia.

More than 250 fashion brands will participate in a “retail & lifestyle celebration”.

Free to the public, The Fashion Catwalk is expected to attract around 400,000 visitors on October 10.

Fifty iconic Vogue covers will be on display in the Grand Atrium.

• For more details, go to www.thedubaimall.com


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