Vogue Italia's Black Issue

Thursday, 17 July 2008
Rarely does a consumer magazine inspire controversy in the way the current Italian Vogue cover has. Vogue Italy's Black Issue, featuring solely black models and a blazing Naomi Campbell on one of its cover series, were shot by renowned photographer and image-maker Steven Meisel. Instead of the generic fashion magazine model , all the faces are black, and all the feature topics are related to black women in the arts and entertainment. Meisel was given roughly 100 pages of editorial for his pictures.

Under its editor, Franca Sozzani, Italian Vogue has gained a reputation for being more about art and ideas than commerce. Ms. Sozzani also doesn’t mind controversy, reported the New York Times.

Sozzani stated, as an Italian, she has been intrigued by the American presidential race and Mr. Obama, which was one source of inspiration when she and Mr. Meisel began discussing, in February, the idea of an all-black issue. Also, she was aware of the lack of diversity on the runways in recent years and the debate it fueled last fall in New York, where Bethann Hardison, a former model who ran a successful agency, held two panel discussions on the topic.

Ms. Sozzani said the issue was not a response to criticism that she, too, has under-represented blacks or portrayed them as stereotypes. “Mine is not a magazine that can be accused of not using black girls,” said Ms. Sozzani, noting that Naomi Campbell has had several covers, and that Liya Kebede and Alek Wek have also had covers.

Having worked at one time with nearly all the models he chose for the black issue — Iman, Ms. Campbell, Tyra Banks, Jourdan Dunn, Ms. Kebede, Ms. Wek, Pat Cleveland, Karen Alexander — Mr. Meisel had his own feelings. “I thought, it’s ridiculous, this discrimination,” Meisel told the New York Times. “It’s so crazy to live in such a narrow, narrow place. Age, weight, sexuality, race — every kind of prejudice.”

Vogue Italia's Black Issue is on newsstands now.