Franca Sozzani On Michelle Obama: ‘She’s Alive, She’s Real’

On Tuesday afternoon, we had the honor of attending Fashion 4 Development‘s second annual First Ladies Luncheon at The Pierre Hotel. The organization was created in 1996 by Bibi Russell to empower global communities through the fashion and beauty industries, and entrepreneur Evie Evangelou relaunched it in 2011. As such, the luncheon was attended by fashion industry folk, First Ladies, and Royals, and we felt completely out of our element. But model Lily Cole wasn’t even fazed. “No disrespect to anybody in the room, but I don’t get starstruck!” she laughed. “I’m honored, very honored to be here.”

The model was recently named a Goodwill Ambassador for the Beauty 4 Empowerment branch of the organization, and she told us that she was thankful for the opportunity. “It feels like a kind of wonderful, natural step in the journey I’ve been taking,” she said. “I’ve been working for about six years in my own way, looking at production change and looking at fashion’s role and responsibility in global production processes and the big humanitarian efforts it can have. I’ve worked with quite a few organizations and companies looking at that, so to be asked is, I guess, a reflection of that work. To be asked to play this ambassador role is a great honor and I’m very grateful.”

Nestled in a corner across the room, we spotted Vogue Italia‘s editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani, who was named the premier Goodwill Ambassador of Fashion 4 Development in June. Naturally, she had a lot to say about the importance the fashion industry has on a community.

“For some cultures, it’s very important because it is work for women, and there are no women in the world that don’t dream of having beautiful dresses,” she said in that heavy, but not overwhelming Italian accent of hers. “Now, the point is to make the dresses beautiful, not expensive, and to make a good distribution. Otherwise, they’re produced for Africa, they sell in Africa, and they don’t go anywhere. We have to improve, to empower women, to give them jobs, and to give them good money, salary, and dignity. You know, if you have work, you have dignity. If you don’t work, you don’t have dignity.”

There was no shortage of First Ladies and Royals in the room, and we felt like curtsying to everyone we made eye contact with. However, one noticeably missing lady was Michelle Obama, who truly champions for young designers, said Sozzani.

“She always tries to wear young people, she tries it on herself, and she has the attitude to wear it in the best way because she’s natural,” she told us. “And this is something that very few women have — to be natural. Everybody looks fake in the fashion world, and once she wears the dress of a young designer or a very expensive one, it doesn’t matter — she’s alive! She’s real. Kate Middleton has a different attitude. Michelle — she looks like the joy of life. At least. The other one, she’s more concerned. But she’s still young, and does very well.”

Check out other notable guests in the gallery below:

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