Alessia Glaviano

In Conversation

Alessia Glaviano is the Brand Visual Director for Vogue Italia and L’Uomo Vogue. Born in Palermo to a family of artists, it was 2000 when she moved to Milan to work at Vogue Italia. Here, nurtured under the wing of the legendary Franca Sozzani, she has built powerfully on her legacy and continuously sparks dialogue around the politicised fashion image. Alessia is also responsible for the inclusive and innovative online platform Photo Vogue, which in turn led her to become the Director of the Photo Vogue Festival.

OT: Thank you for talking to me. I'm really impressed with everything you’ve been doing. I’m always struck by the breadth of your appreciation of photography. It's quite rare to meet people who really understand what a fully diverse photographic language is, and still work within the kind of the world that you and I inhabit.

AG: I’m glad you say this, because I've always been interested in all kinds of photography. I'd be going around to festivals and things like that, and I noticed that there are boxes. It's like, you do reportage, you know about reportage; you do fashion, you know about fashion. And I think everything is a bit connected, the medium is one, and there can be liaison between the different genres of photography. I think it's enriching. And I think the importance of commercial photography is in changing peoples gaze, this is something I always say, but I think it's very important.

OT: I agree! I was interested in your aesthetics, because you've said that a lot, that you're interested in ethics and aesthetics - the ethics we'll get onto in a minute, but tell me what you mean, because aesthetics is a big word. Do you mean beautiful? Or is it something different to you?

AG: I'm very into aesthetics. I like beautiful things. I despise the idea of that if you're doing something serious, then it shouldn’t look good, you know? It’s the care of it, that you put into something that is visual. Which is not beautiful in terms of harmonic, in terms of an old way to think of beautiful things. But in the way when you go into a room, and you see that things are well put inside the room, right? The same thing inside an image. Something can be elegant, otherwise it can be cheap. And it has nothing to do with how much you spent, very little to do with that, it has to do with taste.

OT: And the ethics are about social responsibility?

AG: I think awareness of where we stand as a society. What are the issues at the present time, and in which way? First of all, not offending anyone, or at least trying not to offend anyone, and trying, instead, to help. To help communities that maybe need more representation. I'm a lot for issues of representation and trying to do something about it.

OT: I noticed you do that in the Photo Vogue festival, don’t you?

AG: I do that in my daily practice. And I, of course, do it with Photo Vogue. And with the festival, I started this idea of using fashion photography, but in a way that is political. And I started that with Vogue Italia, and then with Photo Vogue. I've always been interested in advocating for problems. And people living with problems - that could be poverty, could be anything.

OT: I know you’ve taken a strong stance on disability. When did you pledge your support to that?

AG: I have many friends who do have disabilities. So I was speaking to them about how they felt about all of these things. It was painful for me to see that every time I was reading, seeing something about someone with disability, it was always either pitiful, or heroic or idealistic. I always think that was one of the reasons why I decided to take this strong commitment towards people with disabilities and representation. Because, I felt like, how must a kid grow up? What is he thinking about himself? If he never sees himself? Not in a magazine? Not in the movies? Nowhere? He must feel like, ‘you're not worth it.’ It's ridiculous. I met this photographer, her name is Patricia Lay-Dorsay, she has multiple sclerosis. And by speaking to her, I was so taken by this woman, and how she was approaching everything, how she was. And I thought, well, I should be starting to do something about this, you know, publishing, writing, but in my way, with fashion, taking it away from that idea of pity. And let's not make it about just the disability, let's make it in a beautiful way. And so that's how I started that.

OT: Is it something that you feel? Can you see the results of your work?

AG: I do and I am just so happy about that - if I contributed even an inch to that, because it's so amazing to see. I did this story for Gucci Beauty with a model that has Down syndrome, Ellie Goldstein, and she went everywhere, she was on CNN, BBC, it's amazing. The campaign was shot by photographer David PD Hyde, who also has a disability. And then to see Aaron Philip, in a wheelchair, on a billboard for the Moschino advertisement. I think that is so important. It's even more political, and even more, you know, how would you say - it's gonna push things farther? Until like five years ago, that was impossible. The only things you were seeing with people with disabilities were horrible, like calendars, or really cheap stuff. These people are warriors, because they are putting their body out there and their disability out there, to be able to one day soon not to be talking about that anymore. You know, we’re not there yet. We do need these warriors today, that put themselves out there. So yes, it’s maybe the thing I’m proudest of.

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