Editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue dies at 'ageless 66'

Editor-in-chief of Vogue Italy, Franca Sozzani posing prior to the Givenchy 2014 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show, in Paris.
Editor-in-chief of Vogue Italy, Franca Sozzani posing prior to the Givenchy 2014 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show, in Paris.PHOTO: AFP

Italian Vogue's editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani, the woman behind the first-ever issue of Vogue to feature only black models, has died at age 66. Her death in Milan on Dec 22 came after a long battle with an undisclosed illness according to tributes published on the magazine's website.

She is survived by her son, Francesco Carrozzini, a director whose biopic of his mother is slated to be released next year.

From US supermodel Tyra Banks to designer Marc Jacobs, the fashion world remembered Sozzani on social media as an influential taste-maker who was unafraid to showcase diversity and global issues in a glossy fashion magazine.

In Vogue Italia, fashion was used as a platform to discuss matters such as war ( September 2007 cover story) or environmental disaster (August 2010). Plus-sized women featured on the June 2011 cover while April 2014 was dedicated to condemning violence against women.

In 2005, model Linda Evangelista was one of those posed by photographer Steven Meisel to mock social obsessions with plastic surgery for the July issue of Vogue Italia. On Dec 23, she posted a photo from a past Sozzani shoot on Instagram, writing: "I struggled with the 'tears on command' while shooting these photos for you. Had I imagined a world without you...they would have flowed."

Sozzani's obituary by Hamish Bowles on Vogue's website says she was born in Mantua, studied literature and philosophy at university in Milan and was married for a brief time in her youth.

She started her magazine career with a low-profile job at Vogue Bambini, landed the editorship of popular magazines Lei and Per Lui in the 1980s, and began her reign at Vogue Italia in 1988.

Anna Wintour became editor-in-chief at American Vogue that same month. In an essay about their 30-year friendship published on Vogue's website, Wintour hailed Sozzani's "drive and determination, her fearlessness, her beauty, her wild imagination, and her totally original way of fusing social issues with fashion" .

"She was also the hardest-working person I have known, and with an envy-inducing ease with multitasking," Wintour wrote.

In a 2011 interview, Sozzani told Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington that her proudest moment was bringing out Vogue Italia's "Black" issue, the July 2008 magazine which only had women of colour on its pages. It was criticised for capitalising on the media frenzy as the United States elected its first black president but Sozzani maintained the issue had been in the works long before.

In an obvious shout-out to Black Vogue, supermodel Banks tweeted on Friday: "Farewell to my high fashion mama... @francasozzani, u embraced us all w/the warmest heart. I respect & admire u forever."

On Instagram, American artist Ciara shared a photograph with Sozzani as well as the cover of her sixth album, last year's Jackie. The cover shoot was directed by Sozzani. The singer wrote in tribute: "An inspiration. Truly one of the most amazing Women I've ever met. You believed in me...It breaks my heart to know you are no longer here with us."