Talking fashion

Anjali Jhangiani
Friday, 22 December 2017

Chatting up Sara Sozzani Maino, editor at Vogue Italia and head of their talent scouting vertical, about giving emerging Indian designers a dream-come-true platform to showcase their work to the world

After spending a couple of days in Mumbai, Sara Sozzani Maino, editor at Vogue Italia and head of Vogue Talents, was in Pune to meet the students at FAD — Institute of Luxury Fashion and Style, and others from the fashion circuit in the city. As we sat down for a chat about her current mission, she said, “Under Vogue Talents, we launched this programme in October this year to select designers from India, or Indian designers from all over the world, to promote them and give them a chance to exhibit in Mumbai next year. From that selection, I will choose one designer and bring them  to showcase their work at Milan Fashion Week in September 2018.”

“Vogue Talents,” she explains, “is an initiative in support of talented emerging designers.” But once talent is scouted, how does it help the designers? “Once we scout them, we support and try to put them in contact with the industry on a global scale. We also try to promote them worldwide and give them that scope to grow their brand,” says Maino, who has been working with Vogue Italia for 24 years. “I have actually taken up many different roles in the magazine over the years. I’ve been an assistant to other stylists before I became a stylist. I’ve been scouting for 10-12 years now because that’s where I found my passion. We founded Vogue Talents in 2008 and since then my main aim has been to search fresh, emerging and deserving designers,” she says. 

Another one of her projects includes the Who is on Next, where they have been encouraging Italian designers to produce in Italy since 2004. 

With fuzzy hair, that she prefers to wear naturally, black pants and simple jacket thrown over a t-shirt, Maino pulls off the ‘cool-at-work’ look with ease. She doesn’t like to pose for photographs, and when she does, it’s rare for her to smile, unless she’s happy after having a thorough conversation about the rapid evolution of the fashion scene across the world. 

“Nowadays there are a lot of designers in the fashion industry. So the most important thing to look at, from a scouter’s point of view, is the vision that the designer has. It’s vital that they tell their own story with honesty. The quality of the collection also plays an important role in the selection. The personality of the collection and what the designer communicates through it is fundamental too,” says Maino. There are a variety of aspects that need to be looked into before selecting the one designer who will get to bring their work to the mecca of fashion — the Milan Fashion Week next year. But Maino shares that she is most interested in the vision that the designer shares through their work. “When you want to get noticed, you have to have a straightforward message and a very precise style,” she adds. 

“Right now, India’s definitely on the map when it comes to global fashion, but the people here perceive fashion in a way that is heavily influenced by Bollywood. A majority of designers are strongly linked to their traditions. They are very linked to their culture and traditions,” says Maino, adding that this feature is a strength and must be utilised to its optimum potential. 

“I’ve been scouting talent for a long time, I’ve met Indian designers before and I think they are very talented. Having said that, I have noticed those based in India are more rooted to their culture and this reflects in their work. But those who are well travelled and have first-hand experience of fashion all over the world, or live in different countries, have a more global appeal in their work. Nonetheless, they are coming into the spotlight. I feel that Indian designers should really be proud of their tradition, quality and variety of the embroidery and techniques, talent of the artisans, tie and dye and so on. They should push on that, but with a more modern twist,” she says. 

Apart from India, which has recently been making its mark on the global fashion market, other Asian countries like Japan, South Korea are foraying into the spotlight. “Now, there is a thriving fashion industry in every country in the world. But notable fashion designers are emerging from countries like Africa and Georgia,” she says. 

Maino talks about how everything is changing in the fashion circuit due to e-commerce and social network. “International markets are becoming more and more accepting of a lot of change. Fashion is struggling to remain in the rhythm of the market, but as far as I can see, big brands like Prada and Armani won’t have a hold like they used to before. The new brands that are coming up are very independent and they are successfully finding a market for their products. The fashion scene across the world has changed in the last five years, and is still changing rapidly,” she concludes.

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