With the recent news of Ms. Franca Sozzani‘s passing, who was editior of Vogue Italia for 28 years, we thought it a fitting tribute to look at some of those moments that caused a stir. We have found that often when there are moments that get people talking, it is because they are uncomfortable topics. What we appreciate most about all that Ms. Sozzani did, was that she did not look the other way. Instead, she went head on and wasn’t afraid to tackle the controversy.
In July 2005, photographer Steven Meisel was tapped for the “Makeover Madness” shoot, which featured Linda Evangelista and included models Missy Rider, Elise Crombez, Jessica Stam and Hanna Sukupova. Why the controversy? Well, it was showing a behind-the-scenes look at plastic surgery, if you will, with all of the needles, markers and bandages.
“State of Emergency”
September 2006 marked five years since 9/11. Vogue Italia also unveiled its “State of Emergency” editorial, which was shot by Meisel and featured models Hilary Rhoda and Iselin Steiro. Simply put, some thought it was too soon and especially too soon when speaking to the event with fashion.
“Make Love Not War”
In September 2007, models Agyness Deyn, Missy Rayder, Caroline Trentini, Raquel Zimmermann, Julia Stegner, Daniel Pimentel, Blaine Cook, Chad Dunn, Chad White, Isaac Haldeman, Nathan Nesbitt, Oraine Barrett, Rodrigo Calazans and Travone Hill were captured by Meisel for the “Make Love Not War” editorial, which was inspired by the Iraq War. Backlash came as some saw the images as sexualizing and even glamorizing the war.
“Water and Oil”
In August 2010, Meisel was enlisted once again to capture “Water and Oil”, which was inspired by the recent Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill and featured model Kristen McMenamy. Some say the irony within itself was enough to cause an uproar – a model in expensive clothes while trying to raise awareness about this topic. Others simply thought it was insensitive.
“The Discipline of Fashion”
For the September 2011 issue, model Stella Tennant was photographed by Meisel for “The Discipline of Fashion” shoot. It was inspired by the early 20th century style figure, Ethel Granger. It caused a stir because it was said Stella’s waist was brought down to 13 inches and in turn, did not help foster a positive self image.
In April 2014, Meisel captured models Issa Lish, Natalie Westling and Bernd Sassmannhausen for “Horror Movie”. Controversy ensued as it was said to project domestic violence as being “in Vogue” versus female empowerment, as was the view shared by others.
In regards to her editorials, here’s what Ms. Sozzani shared with Vogue.
“Every era has its own social movements and struggles. Today, for example, everyone is dressed the same because of global distribution. I like to go deep inside a subject that is unexpected.”
She continued, “For instance, we did a photo shoot about domestic violence. Some people said, ‘You should not have put fashion captions on the photos,’ but I chose fashion to give a message. Of course, those girls had clothes on — everyone has clothes on, even when they die. Everybody knows fashion. I use fashion to give a message. Take punk, for example: it was a social movement, of course, but fashion was a means of communicating that era.”
In other interview, with the Financial Times, Ms. Sozzani shared more insight into her work.
“Fashion is much bigger than a dress. I am sometimes criticized for using moda for talking [about] other matters, but today fashion is enormous, everyone speaks of fashion or what is not fashion. It can be seen as the ‘fatal attraction’ of everything.”
And, in an interview with WSJ, she spoke about how she sees images.
“For me, I love images first, more than anything else. Before fashion, I love images. I love to find a new way to make an interpretation of fashion. I use the frames to send messages, like frames of an old movie. Besides the culture of our past, Italy has cinema: Fellini, Visconti, Antonioni. You want it to be aesthetic but with meaning. Otherwise you get tired of even the most beautiful things. It’s not enough if there’s not a concept inside.”
As we work to carve out our own path at MalenDyer, we are grateful for trailblazers like Ms. Sozzani. Not everyone will see the world like us, but it’s good to know others have paved the way to make it just that much easier.
P.S. Be sure to check out Vogue Italia for more of Ms. Sozzani’s work at vogue.it.