Vogue Italia's Franca Sozzani on 'Making It' in the Magazine Industry

Franca Sozzani, editor of Vogue Italia, comes to New York University's Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo to speak about the difficulties and rewards of being in charge of a world-renowned publication

While many print publications across the world mourn the days before domination by their online counterparts, there are still the remarkable few that remain strong. As Franca Sozzani, editor of Vogue Italia announced on May 3 at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, the print magazine is doing “just fine.” Several months this year even showed up to a 27% increase in magazine sales. The explanation, at least for Sozzani, is simple. “Vogue Italia uses fashion as a vehicle to present everyday issues.”

Sozzani, originally from Mantova, started her journalistic career at Vogue Bambini, directed publications Lei and Per Lui, and after arriving at Vogue Italia, was appointed to editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Italia in 1994. She understands what it takes to produce a successful magazine.

Vogue Italia,
when she arrived, was just another fashion magazine. Since that time, she has forged a new path, unquestionably a far less traveled one, and has allowed Vogue Italia to separate itself from the rest. The magazine's personality is even drastically different from the other Vogue publications, Vogue Paris and Vogue US. Sozzani says, “People always say that Vogue Italia is too abstract but it is not true. We try to show what’s going on around the world…basically, you have to have a concept.”

   Franca Sozzani and Grazia D’Annunzio

In her visit to NYU’s Casa Italiana, Sozzani spoke about her past experiences, current assignments, and future visions for Vogue Italia and Vogue.it. Throughout the presentation, Sozzani answered questions from US Special Projects Manager of Vogue Italia, Grazia D’Annunzio, and co-Director of The Concentration in Fashion Studies at the Graduate Center at CUNY, Eugenia Paulicelli, and even from the audience.

For much of the discussion, Sozzani provided personal opinions and responses to recent controversial issues such as Vogue Black, Vogue Curvy, issues such as, “The Latest Wave” and feature articles on the wars in the Middle East and plastic surgery obsessions. For Sozzani, although they are not the simplest issues to present, they are the areas in which fashion collides with reality unexpectedly.

After receiving recent negative feedback for “The Latest Wave,” a fashion photographer’s depiction of the oil spill’s effect on nature, accusations of racial segregation for Vogue Black, and claims of insensibility for "Rehab Chic," Sozzani explained to her audience that critique is rampant and unrelenting. She says, “If you want to feel safe you don’t take risks. But if you don’t want to be safe and want to make different work, then you may make more mistakes.”

It is simply the nature of the beast, she explains, and critique is usually the result of misinformation and misdirection. Vogue Black, for instance was born as a way to honor the subtle unique features of African American beauty that Sozzani recognized on the runway. Similarly criticized, Vogue Curvy is not a statement for plus-size models, but a celebration of the original ideality of feminine beauty—curves. For Sozzani, it has been more rewarding to know she is doing something different with fashion when representing crisis and complicated social issues; they can be interpreted however the viewer chooses.

Currently, Sozzani is impressed with the status of the Vogue Italia website and blog. Specifically, she finds it successful in its ability to keep people connected with the current events of the publication without losing desire to hold the physical magazine in their hand.  The website is also great, she says, for directly communicating with her readers. “People thought I was far away, not involved, but now I blog, I’m a real person working everyday, talking, discussing, putting in effort.”

Vogue Italia, under Sozzani’s watch, takes risks and never fails to achieve what it sets out to do: be different from the rest. As a reminder to all in the field of journalism and fashion, Sozzani comments, “You are not the Pope, you are not in this job until you die; you can be out at any point so you have to put in the effort every single day.”