Vogue Italia Are Dividing Opinion Once Again WIth Their ‘Domestic Abuse’ Issue

Editor Franca Sozzani argues that the photo shoot raises awareness; but does it also glamourise the abuse of women?


by Pandora Sykes |
Published on

They’re no strangers to controversy, are Vogue Italia. In 2011 there was outrage over a particularly sinewy image of Karlie Kloss; in 2012 their ‘Haute Mess’ ghetto fabulous editorial was widely interpreted as racist; and just last month there was outrage over the April issue’s tribal fashion spread, featuring a ‘blackfaced’ Saskia Brauw posing alongside African animals. And now pocket-sized* *editor Franca Sozzani has come under scrutiny once again for _Vogue Itali_a’s May issue, which dropped on stands today and focuses on violence against women.

Once a year, the Milanese powerhouse dedicates its editorial to a pressing global issue, such as cosmetic surgery or sustainability. This year’s focus is an undeniably uncomfortable one to swallow: beautiful girls in beautiful frocks are strewn across the magazine’s glossy A4 pages beaten, bloodied, bruised and even murdered. In one particularly arresting image, a ravishing Rubenesque redhead clad in a red dress with matching socks and Mary Janes lies lifeless and twisted over the bottom few stairs of a curved staircase; her curls are bloodied mess and a ghostly pale man, his torso covered in blood, sits calmly in an armchair nearby.


The response has been vociferous. Reactions in The Debrief office have ranged from ‘f***ed up’ to ‘brave, but lost in translation’. So what was the thinking behind it, asks Alexander Fury in an interview with Franca in The Independent today? ‘The idea originally was cinematic,’ with young people being all about the “horror movie,”’ Franca explains of the glossy shoot, photographed by Steven Meisel.

A risk, right? ‘I am conscious all the time that I take risks,’ the famously un-PC Franca admits with a shrug. The big question, of course, is does it glamorise the issue of domestic violence – being, as it is, a fashion magazine? ‘Fashion is not only about dresses,’ Franca argues, ‘but about culture; it’s about where you live, it’s about social movement, it’s about economical movement, it’s about racism, it’s about everything. [And] who speaks Italian? [30% of Vogue Italia's readership is global] Nobody. So the images are the only way you can reach people.’

Given the context (Franca is clearly passionate, talking about the 1,700 women in Italy who were abused last year, almost 130 of whom died), the intention of the shoot becomes clearer – as all things do when given verbal leverage. Arguably, however, a *Rocky Horror Show *theme is not the best vehicle through which to discuss serious abuse. Because, while there’s something truly brave about a woman who ‘[doesn’t] care about the people in fashion’ and the fact that fashion is considered ‘superficial’, the problem is that these images stand alone. They do not come accompanied with Franca’s thoughtful prose watermarked over the top. A picture may speak a thousand words, but these pictures will be de-contextaulised over Tumblr – and end up as beautiful images of broken women and menacing men.

A quick scan of Twitter would indicate that Franca's message is certainly one that’s become, if not lost, then confused. ‘Hey, ppl cancelled [their US Vogue subscription] over Kimye, but here's @vogue_italia using murder of women ffs, said one. And you know what – they’ve got a point. It does put that whole furore into perspective.

**Follow Pandora on Twitter **@pinsykes

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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