Love affairs with Italy are like living in a sensory masterpiece. If you’ve never rode a Vespa in the Tuscan hills in a haze of fireflies; breathed in Lake Como’s cool, magical, early am mist; savored the earth in a Piedmont organic wine or kissed a hot Italian with long, rivulets of curly hair in a tight T-shirt wet with desire, balancing on cobblestones throbbing with the horses thundering 20-feet away in Siena’s Palio…well, then you haven’t lived.
I suppose, having done those things, I have truly lived…yet, magical beings are Great Italian Love Songs, forever a siren to my heart.
Vogue Italia, and its editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani, reign as large for me as Michelangelo, Sophia Loren, Bellini, Botticelli, Fellini, or that space between God’s finger and Adam in the Sistine Chapel.
When you meet her in person, as I have, she is a tiny glowing light, with cascading golden waves of hair and brilliant blue eyes like the sea of Botticelli’s Venus. Radiating just as one who has re-invented a fashion magazine as a cultural flashlight, shining a light on social, political, racial, and environment sustainability issues should radiate, a beacon.
What other fashion luminary is Ambassador Against Hunger of the United Nations World Food Programme? Consider Sozzani’s “The Black Issue,” entirely devoted to the beauty of black women. Her “Makeover” issue explored plastic surgery. Her initiatives in Africa are one of the reasons we met and the L’Uomo Vogue “Rebranding Africa” issue, was awarded several international prizes.
Exactly why this K-tel Records album cover pulsated with that 1960’s film light that runs through the blood of Italians and Italy I cannot explain. But when great art hits you…you obey. The golden lettering felt cheesy and brilliant at the same time.
I had just seen John Singer Sargent’s portraits of the art collector, philanthropist, and impressario, Isabella Stewart Gardner at the Met Museum in NYC. Her tight black dress against the pattern rug, radiating, made me think of Franca’s combination of old-world Italian beauty combined with a libertine kind of flying, a way of perceiving and embracing the world.
My influences ran from the slashing lines of futurism, whether in the Prada dresses of my favorite ad…
...or to a building or a poster like this one by Giacomo Balla, Abstract Speed + Sound, circa 1913–1914.
Surely the influence of my favorite album cover, Ramsey Lewis’ Sun Goddess was on my mind.
Accessories? I gave her Italian boots for sure:
And her most recent red carpet look, this Valentino dress, something ecstatic between flowers, tapestry and digital game patterns.
This dress perhaps encapsulates this LOVE I have for Franca. The abstract, humanitarianism, and connection to the vital, the nature of life’s timeless expression. Standing in a long line from Renaissance artisans to Fiorucci to Valentino and Prada and Franca’s art of expanding the role of media, this is what makes her a true pioneer. This is my ‘love song’ to her!
Wouldn't she be chic in a grouping of photographs from Roma 1950's or hung with some folky ceramics?