There's an article on the Daily Beast and in Newsweek that recaps the life, career, and character of the talented, provocative Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani. For the uninitiated, it's a must-read introduction to Sozzani's considerable strengths and one of her weaknesses—a lack of understanding of certain racial and professional issues.
"Hire back John Galliano,” Sozzani said when asked who should be the new Creative Director at Dior—a post left open when the designer was fired for his very public, very racist drunken tirade earlier this year. “I understand their point of view," she continued, referencing Benard Arnault and the upper management of Dior's parent company, LVMH. "I understand they couldn’t just say, ‘Bad boy! We forgive you! Come back!’ But it’s really a pity. And I will never believe he believed what he said. I think he was drunk and alone in a bar. When people go crazy, they go crazy. It’s a human case, it’s not political or religious. He didn’t kill anyone!” Indeed, John Galliano didn't kill people. But is that the line that has to be crossed for Sozzani to write off such a clearly pathetic, though gifted, individual?
Sozzani is entitled to her opinions, but she needs to be more circumspect with them. Thanks to her visibility, her comments have the power to confirm the public's worst assumptions about the fashion industry—that it's callous, racially tone-deaf, painfully elitist, and, in some ways, behind the times. The question of John Galliano's actual beliefs wasn't as important as his placement as the visual face of an international brand. In the wake of his comments, Dior ran the risk of permanently alienating not only the media, but its customers and employees, as well. That alone was reason enough to fire him. The content of his behavior, while disturbing, was probably a secondary concern to Arnault and LVMH. Sozzani's public unwillingness or inability to process this—and the associated racial issues—is becoming a liability to her industry.
Vogue Italia is lucky to have an editor so artistically fearless and uncompromising as Sozzani. But when someone in her position defends that which is indefensible both morally and professionally, or allows her magazine to publish articles on "Slave Earrings," she reminds everyone of how horribly out of touch fashion can be (a perception many fight against for both ethical and financial reasons). Can the industry afford this sort of public representation? Probably—it often has. But is this how fashion, as a whole, wants to be perceived moving forward? We hope not.