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MILAN, Italy — Few print publications, and even fewer fashion publications, can lay claim to the cultural impact that Vogue Italia has achieved since its launch in 1965. Under its late editor Franca Sozzani, the title became famous for pushing the boundaries of photography and tackling global issues through the lens of fashion editorial. Highly regarded throughout the industry, Sozzani was renowned for her cultivation of photographers like Peter Lindbergh and Steven Meisel, whose work on shoots with contentious themes like cosmetic surgery, pollution, or the “All Black” issue of July 2008 — which was reprinted twice — cemented the magazine's reception. Sozzani not only expected photographers to blend boundless creativity with rigorous self-reflection, but her editorial team too.
In 2007, at the zenith of her success, Sozzani handpicked Alan Prada to join the team tasked with relaunching L’Uomo Vogue, when he was just 18 months out of university. Seven years later, Prada became the deputy editor-in-chief of L’Uomo Vogue in 2014, followed by his appointment to the same position at Vogue Italia in 2017, under the leadership of Emanuele Farneti.
Over the course of his career, Prada has not only gained a valuable perspective on the evolution of the fashion publication business, but a rare understanding of the power of fashion editorial on the international stage. Now, he sits down with BoF to share his advice for young talent and his insights on the industry.
How did your career in fashion begin?
I went to Italian Elle as an intern. I was the last one on the ladder, but I tried my best — and someone noticed me and introduced me to Franca Sozzani. She had just taken charge of L’Uomo Vogue again and was looking for a new team. We had an interview and clicked right away.
L’Uomo Vogue was my dream since I was a kid, and if you’re really passionate about something, people can feel it and understand that. The enthusiasm was probably what got me into that job. I was just a junior, but she saw someone in me that was enthusiastic and not scared to work.
How did you approach learning from such a mentor?
It was a privilege to be with her every day. She influenced not only me but our whole team. She was able to make you understand, sometimes with words and sometimes with actions, to put you in a direction that was hers. I remember the first day I arrived at L’Uomo, she told me, “If you have to go from A to B and there’s a wall in between, you have to take the wall down and go through.”
If you’re an editor, a publisher, or in a junior position, you learn to be a secretary to an editor-in-chief and everything in between.
This is also Condé Nast Italia — a company where you learn to do everything. You’re not in a box. If you’re an editor, a publisher, or in a junior position, you learn to be a secretary to an editor-in-chief and everything in between.
What lessons from your former mentors do you pass on to juniors today?
Never say, “I don’t do that,” because you have to do everything. You have to be driven by the dream of fashion, because we all dream about the glamour. But the daily job is hard and it’s not glamorous at all. “I don’t do that” can’t exist. You have to do everything, even the things that are annoying.
“I can’t do that” or “this is impossible” are also something that you should avoid because you have to try. It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, maybe you will find a new solution, maybe you won't, but you have to try to make it happen. That is a quality that is fundamental to success in fashion.
With the younger generation today, I often want to encourage them to go out, have fun, see the world — this is important. It’s part of the job to know other people, to entertain them and to have fun with them, but also to learn from them. In my experience, relationships built on these foundations not only bring about business opportunities but career opportunities too. It makes you see the world in a different way.
What attributes have driven your success?
I’m resilient. I don’t give up easily. With L’Uomo, we always have celebrities on the cover and sometimes, it’s complicated to get them. Sometimes, it’s a work of diplomacy and of sheer heart, so I’m determined in that sense.
The best thing is to be yourself, and that’s something that you learn. When you try to be yourself at work is when you have the best results in the end. It’s not easy, and it's not easy for me either, but for younger people, in my opinion it’s better to try to be yourself at work, which is a precious quality.
How could those looking to work in fashion journalism demonstrate their suitability for the job?
It’s good to be super creative, it’s important to have great ideas and to be capable of creating controversy when appropriate — but it’s also the method. How you approach your work. For example, someone that writes an email that is well done, with good punctuation — that's valuable. It's not glamorous but it matters. The formal part is still important [because] from this, you can see the method that an individual will bring to all of their work.
It’s important to have great ideas and to be capable of creating controversy when appropriate — but it’s also the method.
A genius fashion editor [will] have a lot of imagination, [but] they also have to have a certain method and logic in what they do. When you present yourself through an email or a CV, or the way you articulate in an interview, you should also reflect a control of the formal part. Then you can talk about unicorns and whatever.
Where should a junior looking to get into fashion editorial begin?
The editorial world that before was confined to certain medias is now much more open. The change has been dramatic. For a young person that wants to be in fashion, they should try to get a voice out there not only by traditional medias but in other ways, like working for a brand or working for yourself. The mix is much more fluid now. There are more opportunities, even if the traditional medias are struggling.
I sometimes see people who are very ambitious, as I am, but also young people that want to start at the top. Dream big, but if you want to work in the fashion business, you don’t have to start at Vogue or The Business of Fashion — you can start anywhere and then focus on what you want to do to achieve that, instead of waiting or giving up opportunities. It’s better to start and be in the rhythm of the work flow than wait for the fantasy.
What do you believe is essential for someone starting a career in the fashion industry?
Be informed. Be very much informed. When I started, and still now, the people of great quality know everything about fashion. They know the names of the bags, of the models, the designer who was at one brand ten years ago — you should learn and know your field. If you don’t know your field, it’s not worth you going into this field.
I go to schools to do lessons and sometimes I’m surprised by the quality of the students, [but] sometimes they don’t even know who John Galliano and Yasmeen Ghauri is. You can’t only know Kim Jones and Virgil Abloh. They are important, but you also have to know everything. From the icons of the past to the young models of the last season. It’s important to have a profound knowledge of your business.