Thirty years ago, I met Franca Sozzani, then the editor of the youthful Italian fashion magazines Lei and Per Lui, as a neophyte fashion columnist for the New York Times. In a world of bitter, fearful and jealous backstabbers, she spent an hour with me in my room at Milan's Palace Hotel, and helped guide me through the concrete jungle of Milanese fashion, in the process pointing me towards a pair of new designers, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. They showing only their first or second collection in a tiny office in the far reaches of the city. A day later, after I wrote about their new line, they got their first American order from Bloomingdales and an international fashion empire was born.
I was just the messenger. Franca Sozzani authored the message, and, as editor of Vogue Italia since 1988, continued to do so until her death today in Milan at age 66. She was not only generous and warm, she was an epic talent, and one of the greatest promoters of fashion and fashion photography of all time. Here's a bit of what I wrote about her in Focus: The Secret, Sexy, Sometimes World of Fashion Photographers:
Sozzani took over Lei in 1980, and found new shooters, among them Peter Lindbergh, Paolo Roversi, Herb Ritts, Max Vadukul, and Steven Meisel. Sozzani’s photographers were fanatically loyal to her. She gave them “incredible freedom,” beautiful, almost copy-free layouts, and a regular showcase where, says fashion agent Helen Murray, “a photographer could really strut his stuff.” After Sozzani moved to Vogue Italia, it became “the ultimate showcase” for fashion photography. Sozzani’s secret, says a top photographer’s rep who prefers to remain anonymous, is that “she’s a little bit lazy. She lets a photographer like Bruce [Weber] or Steven do everything if they do all the arranging. She’ll send the clothes, you send the layouts. So she gets something nobody else has. If she has to, she’ll say, ‘You really have to show this.’ A brilliant editor will pick out clothes the photographer will like and they really have to show.”
Lazy like a fashion fox.