On Tuesday the 4th of January, first day back at work after the holidays (though I worked all through) my first point of call was to be at the Sofitel Moorhouse Hotel in Ikoyi where I had been told I would be meeting with the famous Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, Franca Sozanni Editor-In-Chief of Vogue Italia and Goodwill Ambassador of Fashion 4 Development- a partner of the United Nations and fashion photographers Francesco Carrozini and David Baron who were all in Lagos to preview collections from Nigerian indigenous designers.
Roberto Cavalli & Franca Sozanni
Though we have been going through arrangements for at least a week before with Mr Kola Karim, CEO of Shoreline Energy International, the business mogul who facilitated this special visit and who I must add has no business in fashion but saw it as an opportunity to help and support home talent. We need more well meaning Nigerians like Karim to help the Nigeria fashion industry and talents grow.
The night before, I had been working on the arrangements both for OnoBello.com and as PR Consultant for Lanre Da Silva Ajayi. I had been on the phone with Rachael Taiwo-Akingbade, project coordinator and Elohor Asien of Beth Models trying to book models at the last minute for presentations, and get a definitive schedule of things as we were unsure of the situation.
Just to give you the exclusive 411, the Italian visitors had postponed their trip from the initial set date to arrive in Lagos on the 31st of December 2011 due to the whole New Year’s day bomb threat issue of Boko Haram so things were still sketchy and we were all holding of breaths for them to arrive. The entire trip had been delayed by two days so they were in Accra, Ghana waiting to see if the coast was clear for them to come in.
Waking up really early after a late night of working, worrying and partying all at the same time until 4am, I dressed up to meet our very special guests.
The entourage came in from Accra where they had been for a few days for the same reason as being in Lagos. While in Accra, the August visitors in January had “met both with Kofi Ansah, a young designer from Ghana and the young talents of The WEB-Young Designers Hub, an association of local young fashion designers who hosted a runway show of their collections in Sozanni’s honour”.
So I walk into the conference room at Moorhouse and after a short wait Sozanni comes in, she looks way smaller in person than her pictures.
Then Ere Dappa, Bridget Awosika and Modus Vivendii one after the other present their pieces on models and talks Sozanni through each of the pieces in their collections.
She was later joined by Cavalli, Carrozini and Baron and of course that hyped the excitement in the room. I don’t know if we all star struck or it was just the air of coolness, creativity and down to earthness Cavalli possesses, he’s certainly a cool dude.
Later that day Sozanni, Carrozini and Baron visited the flagship stores of Lanre Da Silva Ajayi, Tiffany Amber, Ituen Basi and Deola Sagoe and had a photoshoot with their pieces.
Sozanni was gracious enough to grant us an exclusive interview that gave us an insight to her visit, she explained, “we are here for Fashion For Development for the United Nations to try and see how we can help fashion and empower women working so they could have a better lives and salaries, Fashion For Development aims to implement creative strategies seeking the sustainable development and economic independence of women.”
Here’s our conversation with Franca Sozanni, enjoy!
Franca Sozanni Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia and Goodwill Ambassador For The United Nations
OB: This is your first visit Nigeria, how are you finding Lagos?
FS: I don’t know because am coming from Ghana, it’s a good country but slow so hopefully Nigeria might be faster
OB: What’s the reason yourself, Mr Roberto Cavalli and photographers Francesco Carrozini and David Baron are visiting?
FS: We just came from Ghana and we are here for Fashion For Development for the United Nations to try and see how we can help fashion and empower women working so they could have a better lives and salaries. So am looking for people to see how we can help them to increase their business, see how possible it is to help them distribute in different parts of Europe as this is very important because we understand that there is a lot of problems in production so it is very important to produce from the home country. For instance, Italy is based on production with the factories we have, so I think places in Nigeria and Ghana have the possibilities to develop production potential so we are trying to find a way to organise and do so.
OB: What you are watching out for as you are previewing the different designers in Nigeria today?
FS: Well, it’s the designers that make their collections and I have no say in that but I am just here to see if it’s possible to help them in a way, I am not in charge of their designs, I am just here to help with maximum potential.
OB: We have been under the notion that you are here to select one designer out of all the designers to assist, is this true?
FS: We can help everybody but it depends on what, why and how much it will cost. Things are very expensive here. I just saw the designs of Ere Dappa, her pieces are great but too expensive so I told her to look for a way to make the same things but in a different way, maybe mix match the fabrics or not do so much embroidery because people cannot spend two or three thousand dollars on a dress even if its beautiful dress. So its a lot and am trying to understand and later will try to find a way to help.
OB: Coming from Italy, the hub and home to fashion, can you tell us what the industry is like over there?
FS: The fashion industry over in Italy is that people are working hard because people work from small ideas to big ones, however there must be a concept, everything has to have a concept.
OB: Can you briefly give us an insight into the day-to-day running of Vogue Italia as the Editor-in-Chief?
FS: It’s a long story, because to make a magazine is like making a collection, it entails a lot. There’re things you like and don’t and like to change things around and change your mind to do something else. So, its not a formula, I take things day-by-day. It’s like being a designer; you make your collection and build it up piece by piece.
OB: What’s your Must-Have fashion item for this season?
FS: Well, I don’t really know, but I love flat shoes. Everybody has their item, it depends on how you are or feel, maybe you like to be sexy or masculine; there are different approaches so for me its important that you have your aesthetic. It’s not good to be like everyone else in the world. I was in Ghana and there was a fashion show, in the first show it was like I could be in Moscow or Paris so I was wondering why I was in Ghana if it’s like everywhere else and it’s a pity. It’s not like I wanted them to wear scarves and beads but I wanted to see something unique.
OB: How do you unwind from your busy schedule of running a magazine as Vogue, your job as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations and travelling round the world working?
FS: For me its relaxing to meet young people, they’re the future, I cannot be sitting down and be thinking that I am the editor of Vogue and am so fashionable. I enjoy meeting people so I can see what’s next and help people to grow.
Ono Bello & Franca Sozanni
Ono Bello & Roberto Cavalli
Many Thanks to:
Reze Bona- Fashion Photographer, for all the lovely pictures.