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Join Date: Mar 2010
SOZZANI: No, because first of all, I think in any work you need to be creative. Even in a factory, even in a colony, you need to be creative. So in fashion you need to be creative, but you need to be more than creative because itís a business, which you should not forget. So if you mix that creativity and a stellar business, and you bring that experience to a new world where they donít know anything about it, you really teach them something new.
FIRTH: How did you become a goodwill ambassador for Fashion 4 Development? I know itís a global campaign which, through fashion-based initiatives, is designed to support the U.N.ís other work in areas like poverty and gender equality, but can you talk a little bit about your involvement with this project?
SOZZANI: I really understood that my commitment should be a commitmentónot only an honorable title before my name. The mission is to really use my know-how, my experience, and my willpower to help produce more work and education. I do not believe that you can help anyone in the world without giving them an education, a salary, and work for their education. Because when you have a salary, you feel like you are a human being who has been recognized by society. If you donít have a salary, then you are always somewhat rejected by society. So we have to create this project in a way to give people an appropri- ate salary and to have a place where they have dignity. They need to be prepared, because, you know, some of them cannot do this kind of workóthey are not skilled, so we need to train them. The idea is to create a small laboratory in which, at the same time, you learn, you produce, and you have a family.
FIRTH: I remember you telling me after you became a goodwill ambassador that you actually wanted to work at it.
SOZZANI: Well, the people that I metóthey were so sharp. Usually, a goodwill ambassador goes out and says, ďOh, hello, how are you? Poor kids . . .Ē And I said, ďNo, I really want to work. I really want to produce. I really want to make business. I want to bring in money. I want them to involve me with a project, and Iím covering it in a special issue. That way, people can see that itís not Hollywood.Ē Everybody, of course, was shocked, and now they see that I already went to Ghana and I went to Nigeria. The magazine is going to honor . . . We did an auction to raise development money. Now, the culture is much more involved than before. In the beginning, it was words, words, words. But now we have action, you know?
FIRTH: Did your trip to Africa change your perception of fashion at all?
SOZZANI: It didnít change my idea of fashion, but you know what it did change? It changed my attitude. Iím really very committed. I drove all day long to meet people, to try to convince people, and at the same time, I feel that I cannot do anything by myself. I feel that I can select people to do my work, and I can do a lot of dinners and help bring attention. But being in those countries . . . Iím just observing now, but it wonít be easy to change the situation. So more than changing my feelings about fashion, doing this work has changed my feeling about my potential and my possibilities to do something. Iím a Capricorn. I feel that I have to be stronger. I cannot be only ďYes, we can do itĒóitís ďYes, we have to do it.Ē So Iím doing the fashion shows, doing the couture, and I was looking and thinking, ďWe do something like this with these people, but what can we do to use all these peopleóthe news, press people, and familiesóto help them understand?Ē You know, Iím changing my mentality . . . Itís a new thing. [laughs]
FIRTH: You mentioned the fact that even in charity you need to be committed to creating. Thatís why I got involved with the Green Carpet Challenge, which is an ongoing project that encourages celebrities to wear eco-friendly clothing on the red carpet, and which you know about because you are now a part of it. Maybe I should know the answer to this, but why did you decide to get involved?
SOZZANI: You know, when you came to me the first time, you were being real hard on me. You were like, ďYou know, people in fashionóthey understand nothing. What others do to the dress is not that important. What about the trade and whatís behind this system?Ē I understand that itís how you talk with people. [laughs] So one night you talked about this, and in the beginning I didnít exactly get the point, but then I got it when you were saying, ďWell, if you wear a dress that is eco, itís not that the attire should call attention, but people will say, ĎLook at heróshe has such a beautiful dress.í And thatís when you say, ĎDid you know that this dress is made with fair-trade ecological sustainability?íĒ Now weíre playing with the world, and the world, in a way, is like a boomerang, you know? The world is changing. Everything is going bad; somethingís wrong around us. So one night you talked about this, and we started working on it together . . . Itís an education. We need to educate people. Itís not to be cool or spiritual, all ďWe want to save the world!Ē But you can do it in a different way. I think that weíve become a very visual culture, and once the people understand that a project like this is not only about beauty but about sustainability, then thatís even better. People will eventually see it like us. But at the moment, they donít understand, so we have to bring them into it.
FIRTH: Frankly, thatís what happened with the Armani dress [which Firth wore on the red carpet while accompanying her husband, the actor Colin Firth, to the 2012 Golden Globes] Thatís a good dress made by a designer. Itís an incredibly beautiful dress. But then when you have the story about the fabric and how itís made of recycled plastic and who made it and how they made it, suddenly people reconnect to it. Lucy Siegle, the British journalist who co-founded the Green Carpet Challenge with me, wrote a book called To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? She goes deep into the factories and the production chains and the issue of sustainability. Have you ever been to a factory in Bangladesh or India or China?
FIRTH: How can fashion not ruin our world?
SOZZANI: I donít want fashion to wear out the world. Do you know what the main problem is when you read about these kinds of factories like in Namibia or even in Morocco, where there is so much criminal behavior? They just produce for the tourists. They produce for the people who come there, and they want to pay one euro because they think that the work has no value. It drives me crazy. All these people just work like crazy to make a shawl or all those bowls, and after they run after you and they say, ďTen euros! No, nine! No, eight, seven, six, five . . .Ē Come on, itís purely insulting. So the work that the workers do has to be protectedóthatís what I said when I met the presidents in Nigeria and in Ghana. I told them, ďWe have to protect your art. You have to protect your culture. You have to protect your ability to create, and we need to work together to find a solution so the Western people donít feel like theyíre buying something like when you buy from India or Bangladesh or Peru because there is no respect for these countries from our sideónot for those poor guys. They work very hard, but we do not respect the work.
FIRTH: If you find a label on your garment that says, ďMade in India,Ē or ďMade in Bangladesh,Ē you evaluate it immediately: ďWhy was this made in that place?Ē
SOZZANI: Itís already over. You pretend that itís completely inexpensive.
FIRTH: Yes. Because one of the big problems is also what is called ďfast fashion,Ē which is one of the plagues of the last 10 years. It has changed the entire perception that people have of fashion. What do you think is the future of fashion?
SOZZANI: The future of fashion? I think itís more and more separatedólike, on one side would be big distribution, and on the other side there will be high-level prÍt-ŗ-porter and couture. I mean, the prÍt-ŗ-porter is already couture in a way for the prices and the way that itís made. The big distribution will allow people to dress in a fashionable way, so this could be for everybody. This part of the big distribution will be stronger and stronger, but the other part we are coming up on is more and more rich people, because weíre always thinking about Europe and about America, but we are forgetting that markets have opened up in modern China, India, and, who knows, maybe even Africa. And so it will be on one side very sophisticated and very unique and very precious, and on the other side, it will be about very big distribution. I think what we have to do is try to protect every country . . . I am trying to go to Africa to see everything that they do and produce in China and send back to Africa. I think that Africa really needs to protect themselves moreómore than we can do from the outside. We canít do it for them. They have to do it alone to make it.
FIRTH: Itís the same with the World Trade Organization. I was talking to them about better trade routes because this has been a problem. There have been complications with coffee and chocolate for a long, long time.
SOZZANI: Itís everything. Everything.
FIRTH: Itís everything, exactly. Letís talk about feminism. I know you studied philosophy when you were younger, and you speak four languages, and youíre a very strong woman, but at the same time you live in a very glamorous world with all the parapherna- lia that that world brings. Some women are able to have both of those aspects of their livesóand even use it to their advantageó but others find it contradictory. Do you think sometimes that feminism ever gets in the way?
SOZZANI: I think that you are younger than me, so maybe you donít know, but I was living in the moment that feminism came out of, and I think itís only through the work that women are doing today that they are making out better than men. So itís important that you are a feminist in your mind but that you have an attitude sometimes like men. I mean, when I was younger I wanted to be a feminist, and I thought, ďSo you should be a bad dresseróreally shabby, bad hair and makeup.Ē Everything that was feminine was rejected. But you learn that if you are glamorous, if you are very well dressed, if you are human, you can arrive. Because in the moment in which I am better than a man in my work, I already show everybody that women can do betteróI donít have to dress a certain way to show that . . . The world is not in favor of the women. Itís pretty dramatic.
FIRTH: Letís do some quick ones, Franca. What would you like to learn next?
SOZZANI: I would like to go to China and explain my point of view . . . I would also like to learn how to make a movie.
FIRTH: What inspires you?
SOZZANI: Everything. It could be a movie. It could be a book. It could be a house. It could be one wordó Iíll think for hours and hours about one word sometimes. It could be anything.
FIRTH: Who inspires you?
SOZZANI: People who are interesting. It doesnít matter if they are beautiful or not beautifulóinterest- ing people. Do you know when you go to a very boring dinner and you sit down and you have the chance to talk with somebody and itís so interesting that you learn so much that night that you go back and say, ďOh, finally, I met someone who inspired meĒ? I love that. It could even be parts of a personóthe way that they exclaim, their dream.
FIRTH: How do you challenge yourself?
SOZZANI: I like to be risky every day, changing minds every day. Iím not reliable at all in my ideas. I can change my ideas three times a day. I change different things, the parts of the content. But I never change the content of who I am. So my challenge every day is to change and to take risks.
FIRTH: What is your relationship with men and sex? We need to talk about the sex, too.
SOZZANI: [laughs] Very good.
FIRTH: We couldnít be having a conversation between two women and not talk about sex for a little bit. Because you travel a lot, and you are never in the same place for more than a day, do you have aó
SOZZANI: No. You know what? I already got married a few times. I had a fantastic husband.
FIRTH: So youíve had enough?
SOZZANI: I didnít need to get married again. Itís great to be in a situation in which youíre happy. But, you know, Iím not tortured by love. Iím not tortured by chagrin díamour. Iím old now.
FIRTH: What is your relationship with your son?
SOZZANI: Itís a very good relation because there is a mutual estimation between us, you know? He believes me, and I trust him, and we share a lot of things in common, like movies, books. We have more a relation like . . . I donít want to say two friends, because itís always my son and Iím always his mother, and when I want to be his mother, Iím his mother. I donít want to be his friend. But we have a very good relationómore like an aged person and a young person. He did philosophy too, so itís really good. You know what? Itís a very grown-up relation.
FIRTH: What is your relationship with money?
SOZZANI: Quite bad. Very bad. Very bad because, for me, money is to useóitís only to use. So I never have money because I always spend. Thatís why in a way I protect myself in having houses. But if I had just cash or kept it in the bank, Iíd spend it immediately. But not for stupid things. [laughs] So I donít like to have money. I never have money in my pocket.
FIRTH: Last question: You have a magazine. You run a magazine online. You are a goodwill ambassador. You travel all the time, you go out, you meet people. What is the secret of doing it all? How do you do it?
SOZZANI: I think that Iím still very enthusiastic about every single thing that I do. Iím still very passionate. I never feel tired because I feel so involved and so com- mitted, so I enjoy it. And you know what? I have a lot of irony. I love the humor, and when I really, really want to just say, ďYou know what? I canít stand all this,Ē I find an ironical way. I say, ďYou know, maybe you presume to be more intelligent than you are.Ē So I respond in a more humoristic way.
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