A Son’s Love Letter to His Mother

Franca Sozzani and her son, Francesco Carrozzini
“Franca: Chaos and Creation” | Disarming Films

 
Franca: Chaos and Creation, the book, celebrating the life and work of Franca Sozzani, was recently released by Assouline. The book follows the documentary by the same name from 2016, directed by Franca’s son, Francesco Carrozzini.

The film Franca: Chaos and Creation is the only portrait of the legendary editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia that I have ever cared to watch/read. I remember the time after her passing away in 2016, how everything written about her lacked emotion. I wasn’t interested in reading how she revolutionised fashion, or how she transformed the Italian Vogue from a catalogue of brands to the most influential fashion magazine in the world with a strong cultural and social point of view, or about her controversial issues that often lead to criticism because they did not fit the system and the image of a brand. I already knew all that and that was why I had been buying Vogue Italia religiously for years (unlike any other Vogue or fashion magazine). But then I realised I shouldn’t expect a more intimate portrayal of her in the press. Because Franca Sozzani was a very private person. She had managed to keep a sense of mystery around her in an industry that was more and more shaped by fame-seeking editors who gave it a bad reputation by putting themselves in the spotlight and by showing the stupid and frivolous side of fashion.

She didn’t open up to everyone. She only opened up in front of her son, who after having lost his father five years before, wanted to spend more time with his mother and capture her on film just for himself. A love letter from a child to his mother. “The only true love is the one you have for your child,” Franca says in the film.
 

Franca Sozzani and her son, Francesco Carrozzini
movie still from “Franca: Chaos and Creation” | Disarming Films

 

”Life starts new every day.”

 
“When my father died, I realized my mother was all I had left. Seeking a deeper level of connection, I turned my camera on her as a means of exploring our relationship in a new way and also to confront the questions I had never asked before. I wanted to understand the choices she had made throughout her personal life, but also gain insight into her work in the fashion world and share the story of her groundbreaking career. This film, which took 4 years to complete, is as much a testament to her legacy as it is an act of love,” Francesco Carrozzini revealed.

And I finally found that emotional and personal touch I was hoping to find when all those tributes to Franca started pouring in. She had managed to speak to the whole world through the images in her magazine. Now she was speaking to the whole world about her. And she did it for her son. She wouldn’t have done it for anyone else. When asked whether she would have agreed to do the project with a different director, Sozzani confessed: “Never. I would never have done it for someone else. I was actually reluctant to present myself like this to the public. I don’t have the desire to show myself to the world. I have to be out there for my job but it’s because I earned it, not because I go around with a feather on my head or a tail on my back.” I believe this is such a valuable lesson today. In a world that has almost lost touch with reality, a world in which everyone wants to become “famous”, a world of the quantified self, a world in which an entire generation is diligently recording themselves accomplishing so little, Franca’s strong sense of self and opinion and her resistence to artificiality and to the mass mentality is something I admire, respect and aspire to. And I hope it can serve as model to teenagers and younger people, too.
 

Some of my favourite Franca Sozzani Vogue Italia covers, from left to right:
July/August 1988 (her first issue) / May 1993 /April 2012 / February 1989

 

”We have to believe in human beings, otherwise we don’t believe in anything.”

 
Franca: Chaos and Creation is not about the dramas and intrigues behind the glamorous world of high fashion, about celebrity designers, models and photographers (although of course we get to see some of her long-term collaborators, Peter Lindbergh, Bruce Weber and Paolo Roversi speak frankly, appreciatively and lovingly about her). You don’t get to see her or any magazine stylist pick clothes for photo shootings (Lindbergh recounts how relieved he was that she didn’t care if the clothes didn’t show completely in photographs – it was a different story they both wanted to tell). Franca Sozzani in fact resented the celebrity side of fashion. She had even stopped going to the fashion shows through the main entrance in order to avoid being photographed by 20-year-olds who wanted to put her picture online. She was a journalist, a professional, with a degree in philosophy and literature, and she took her role seriously.

This is the portrait of a woman’s own vision of connecting her ideas and the world with fashion, of a woman carving her own way against the system and against the conventions of society, of a woman passionate about her work, of a pioneer. But it’s first and foremost the story of a mother and her son. They bicker in the back seat of the car while being driven around New York, she swears (in Italian, no less), she gets angry, she makes fun of her son, they laugh, she talks about her happy childhood and her supportive parents who taught her to be independent and fearless, she reveals family secrets about Francesco’s father, things not even her son had known until then, and that her remaining dream is to meet the pope (she would ask him why he has so much faith). Her overflowing honesty makes these moments so personal and spontaneous that you feel truly fortunate to witness a precious piece of family history and family life. And, yes, these moments should be rare. Because, no, it is not okay to share your personal life with the whole world. Will we ever go back to normality?
 

Franca Sozzani | movie still from “Franca: Chaos and Creation” | Disarming Films

 
Franca Sozzani also talks about why she revered Yves Saint Laurent for his having given permission to women to dress like men, thus being very close to her way of thinking. About never seeking out security and the comfortable life. About being positive and seeing life not with hindsight and heaviness, but with a sense of humour and lightness – “Lightness for me is when being profound allows you to fly high.” About failing as a way to always improve yourself. About dreaming, because only when you dream you are completely free. About the fact that the most important legacy she will leave behind is her son, but that she also needs to leave something else behind, something that will become part of history. About the fact that she did not have a happy love life and that you can not have it all. Another valuable lesson to take away. No, you can not have it all.
 

“Franca: Chaos and Creation”, the book | Assouline

 
 

You can currently watch the documentary “Franca: Chaos and Creation” on
Netflix or you can order it here or here. The book “Franca: Chaos and Creation”
is available for order here or pre-order here.

 

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