peek inside italian fashion icon carla sozzani’s photography collection

The fashion maestro behind 10 Corso Como talks about opening up her incredible collection of photography for the first time, and putting it on display at Azzedine Alaïa’s Paris gallery.

by Felix Petty
18 November 2016, 2:10pm

Azzedine Alaïa and Naomi Campbell, 1987 / Arthur Elgort © Arthur Elgort

Carla Sozzani's career in fashion is as enviable as her collection of photography. She's the brains behind 10 Corso Como of course, but her achievements hardly stop at running the best fashion/art/book store in Italy (or Europe). She's worked for Vogue, launched the Italian edition of Elle, runs the eponymous Galleria Carla Sozzani, and has been engaged in a decades-spanning collaboration with Azzedine Alaïa.

Over her years working in fashion, she's also, quietly, been amassing a collection of photography that must surely rank among the best in the world. It's a collection that ranges from the iconic to the outré — mixing Richard Avedon's iconic portrait of Marilyn Monroe with Bruce Weber's portraits of his dogs. It includes the work of fashion photography's early pioneers like Cecil Beaton, as well as its unsung heroines, like Alice Springs and Sarah Moon.

Helmut Newton, Rue Aubriot, paris 1976 / Alice Springs © Alice Springs

But it's Azzedine we have to thank for unveiling Carla's collection of photography to the world, convincing her to put it on display for the first time, fittingly at his own gallery in Paris. The exhibition, titled Between Art and Fashion, is curated by Fabrice Hergott of Paris' Museum of Modern Art, who dove into Carla's collection and returned with 220 images that demonstrate her impeccable eye.

"The exhibition was Azzedine's idea," Carla begins, when asked why now is the time to put it on display. "He pushed me to do it. Without him I would never have even thought of showing my collection of photography. It's not a collection to me, it is simply the journey of my life. I feel at home at Azzedine's gallery, it's such a great place, it's been a privilege to make the exhibition there."

Hands, 1941 / Horst P. Horst © Conde Nast 

It was a 1949 image by Irving Penn — of Jean Patchett and Bridget Tichenor doing tarot (she's a big tarot fan) — that turned Carla onto collecting when she bought it in 1974. Over the following 42 years, Carla amassed an astonishing collection. She only collects out of a desire for "love and beauty" — each image must have a personal meaning to her.

It was down to the curatorial instinct of Fabrice to bring some order those memories. "He has such a sure eye," Carla continues. "I learned a lot about editing watching him making the choices." Yet he's eschewed the more traditional idea of grouping by date, theme, style, instead opting to hang everything alphabetically. "He's created an interesting chaos," Carla states. "But it works."

So if she had to choose one image, from all 220 on display, that's her favorite? "The Paolo Roversi photograph of the Alaïa black dress," she states. "Azzedine calls it the 'Carla' dress, because I was fired from Italian Elle when I wanted to put that dress on a cover!"

Marilyn Monroe, 1957 / Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation

Club Allegro fortissimo, Paris, 1990 / William Klein © William Klein

Eel series, Rome, Italy, May 1977 - August 1978 / Francesca Woodman © Courtesy George and Betty Woodman

A Letter to True, 2003 / Bruce Weber © Bruce Weber

Peggy Moffitt in Rudi Gernreich, Topless Swimsuit, 1964 / Photograph by William Claxton / Courtesy Demont Photo Management

Paula Gellibrand, Marquise de Casa Maury, 1928 / Cecil Beaton©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's


Text Felix Petty

Azzedine Alaia
Corso Como
carla sozzani