SPIEGEL ONLINE: As editor of Italian Vogue do you prescribe to your readers what they should be wearing?
Sozzani: No. Vogue Italia differs from the average women's magazine because we don't try to dictate anything to our readers. We don't tell people how to combine this skirt with that jumper and those boots. The readers' bodies and their ages are seldom the same as the models' anyway.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Vogue Italia has a nobler goal?
Sozzani: We are offering a dream and use photo shoots to do so -- sometimes they are ironic, sometimes they're dramatic, it's like looking at scenes out of a movie. Then it's up to the individual to take those looks and translate them into the everyday.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What sort of clothing really excites you?
Sozzani: I am hardly ever excited by one single dress, a coat or some pants. The person that gets that excited about one piece is a "fashionista" and usually obsessed with the end products of the fashion industry. Instead what thrills me is the concept behind a fashion show, the ideas behind the clothes.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: For example?
Sozzani: Take a designer like Alexander McQueen. Love him or hate him, nobody can leave one of his shows saying the man has no vision or that he doesn't have a head for creativity. Even though sometimes what he does is hard to decipher, he never does anything banal.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You have turned Vogue Italia into a fashion bible. It plays a strong part on the international scene. Was that your goal when you took over the position of editor in 1988?
Sozzani: At the time Vogue was more of a catalogue than a magazine. A 100 percent Italian product, intended for the Italian public and for Italian designers showing their collections as they really were. But I wanted to make the magazine more international. And although Italian is a very beautiful language, it's not one that is as widely spoken -- so the only way to do what I wanted was to build a new image for the magazine.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In order to offer that "dream" you spoke of earlier, you have been using the world's best photographers from the very beginning. People like Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber, Peter Lindbergh, Ellen von Unwerth and Herb Ritts. Is it just a coincidence that there are a lot of Germans in this group?
Sozzani: Jürgen Teller also belongs on that list. In Germany there is a solid tradition of photography. It's the only country in which a school of "art photography" has truly developed. Names like Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Candida Hofer and Thomas Ruff don't just have an international impact, they are some of the only people to be known worldwide specifically as art photographers.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: One would imagine that the elegance that you are looking for is to be found mainly in France and Italy.
Sozzani: Why? After all, in the past it was German photographers who came up with a whole new image of the female form. One really must give that cliché up. That old adage about Germans having no taste is still going around today, but I would say that the opposite is true. An elegant German woman is truly elegant. Just think about Karl Lagerfeld -- the unique elegance and extravagance that his creations engender come from a vision of femininity that he himself has seen and experienced.
Sozzani: I wouldn't say so. Just as the Italians can no longer be measured by the standards of the Renaissance, there's no point in trying to reduce the Germans to their rationality or their desire for order. And certainly not in an age where one can travel easily between one continent and another, either in a plane or online.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: For the past few years Berlin has been holding its own fashion week. Do you think the city has what it takes to become a fashion center, sooner or later?
Sozzani: I am very fond of Berlin. Grand things have been achieved with the architecture there. There are so many unique museums there, the likes of which we can only dream of in Milan. But its not easy to find inspiration in Berlin -- you need to search for your impulse there.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Will you be coming to Berlin Fashion Week?
Sozzani: In my personal opinion this ongoing multiplication of fashion weeks (editor's note: Where once there were only the likes of Paris, Milan, London and New York now there are now fashion weeks everywhere from India to Australia) only leads to confusion. I completely understand that every country wants to have a fashion week and there are also plenty of commercial reasons for them to do so. But if I had to see them all, I would never stop traveling.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In Italy the fashion business and the profitable infrastructure around it is the product of hundreds of years of development. That doesn't seem easily imitable.
Sozzani: In the region of Marche they produce footwear, around Carpi -- a city near Modena -- they make knitwear. Near the city of Biella in the area of Piemonte, fabric. Near Como, silk. And in the region of Veneto, leather. Wherever you go in Italy you see this sort of business. And this is not just for the domestic market. Some parts of the business have gone to China -- but if they had not, then some of the finished products would barely be affordable.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In the 1970s and 80s Milan was a fashion capital of the world. What is the city's status now?
Sozzani: There is no other city in the world that is home to so many famous designers: Prada, Gucci, Armani, Fendi, Versace, Trussardi, Dolce & Gabbana, Krizia, Marni, Etro, Ferré. But we don't do a very good job of selling ourselves. Paris simply has more charm and is therefore better known as the more glamorous city.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: During the spring and summer shows of 2009, widely respected fashion editor Suzy Menkes wrote that the seasonal collections seemed designed for Belusconi's "bimbos."
Sozzani: Today we live in very chaotic times. Our points of reference have less and less to do with real culture. We see shows like Big Brother on the television and women who seem to be wearing less and speaking in a more vulgar manner. Fashion is suiting itself to these women. Yes, fashion is part of our culture but that's not why people buy clothes. They buy clothes to attract attention to themselves.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are larger fashion houses losing some of their mystique, or at the very least, some of the romance of fashion? After all, there are now designers in charge at big houses like Trussardi, Moschino and Ferré whose names the customers don't even know.
Sozzani: These days a brand stands for more than clothing -- it also stands for sunglasses, handbags, watches and so on. Brands make a significant amount of profit with these items. If there were no more fashion brands, then you wouldn't be able to sell any more perfumes.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: For years American designer Tom Ford designed clothes for Gucci, before starting his eponymous label. Why do talented designers hide behind well known, more traditional brand names?
Sozzani: Hiding is the wrong word. To build a label up you need the financial means. It is not only about development and design, it's also about how to put those designs into production. It is only when a designer has earned enough and has enough experience, that they can make the move toward independence.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does fashion have any social relevance?
Sozzani: Fashion belongs to our everyday, it is a part of all of our lives. Fashion is a mirror of our society, of our zeitgeist. Punk rock is a good example. Punk fashion came from the streets and it was the forerunner of what we call street style today. Fashion requires ingenuity and design is a creative and valuable process -- just as much as writing a book or painting a picture
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What part of that valuable creative process do the consumers get?
Sozzani: That's the difference between fashion and a book. Fashion doesn't teach anything. You put a dress on, you use it. And that's it.
Interview conducted by Andrea Affaticati
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