Vogue Italia's Black Issue spurred by Obama

MILAN (Reuters Life!) - Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani says the spur for July’s first-ever “Black Issue” of the fashion magazine came in part from Barack Obama’s progress en route to becoming Democratic presidential candidate.

And partly because she wasn’t impressed with the current crop of look alike models with no personality.

“America ... is ready for a black president, so why are we not ready for a black model?,” Sozzani said in an interview with Reuters.

“I was in America on ‘Super Tuesday.’ Of course it influenced me in a way ... it was part of my general idea,” she said.

That general idea became an issue featuring over 20 black models ranging from Naomi Campbell to relative newcomers such as Britain’s Jourdan Dunn who takes pride of place on the cover.

Sozzani, who has been at Vogue Italia for 20 years, said she was also attracted by the strong personalities of the black models.

“At the moment, I really don’t like any girls on the runway. They are all beautiful, amazing, long legs, beautiful eyes, but they all look alike,” she said.

“No girl really impressed me. The only one was Liya Kebede, she’s so elegant, she’s so chic,” Sozzani added, referring to the Ethiopian-born model who is also a goodwill ambassador for the World Health Organization.

The July issue also features a profile of Michelle Obama, wife of the presidential candidate, and interviews with director Spike Lee and Edmonde Charles-Roux, who quit as editor of Vogue Paris over a decision not to use a cover of black model Donyale Luna in June 1966.

Sozzani said she had a different experience for her issue over 40 years later and found no resistance.

“No, no (resistance) at all, not from the clients, not from the people, my chairman was enthusiastic from the beginning,” she said.

Sozzani plans to use more black models in the future, but adds “I don’t want to say every issue, every story should be with black girls, but we should have more.”

The fashion business still uses few black models for advertising and even in the Black Issue’s nearly 350 pages they appear in less than a handful of publicity shots.

Sozzani says she used her influence with some advertisers to persuade them to use black models.

“I know that they’re already asking for more .. for shooting and I know that already some are thinking to use more even for the shows,” she said, adding “but you never know what is in the minds of the designers.”

Editing by Paul Casciato