After months of speculation as to who has scored the cover of Italian Vogue's July '08 issue, featuring only black models, the time has finally come to reveal all...

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The fold-out cover stars (from left to right) Liya Kebede, Sessilee Lopez, Jourdan Dunn, and Naomi Campbell. Under the careful eye of editor Franca Sozzani, and photographer Steven Meisel, the ground-breaking issue is a welcomed sight for many who have long campaigned for equal rights in the fashion industry, but will it help to bring about change?

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Images above, L-R: Tyra Banks, and Sissilee Lopez.

Cathy Horyn's article and blog post for The New York Times are both worth reading, if only for her Q&A with Sozzani.

Highlights from that discussion:

Sozzani: When you see the black issue and all the pictures, you realize that these girls in a way have to work much harder than other models. They are more in touch with their own personalities - they're not simply models in front of a camera. They really try to get the tension.

Horyn: Do you think the issue will have an impact?

Sozzani: Yes, I think it will. I noticed the June issue of French Vogue had a split cover with a black model and white model, though there's nothing inside.

Horyn: Was the black issue a political gesture?

Sozzani: I didn't feel it was a political gesture. Maybe it was political in that when I see all these girls who look alike in a fashion show, they really annoy me. We need to see beautiful clothes on beautiful women.

She is also adamant that the issue was not a response to recent criticisms, but rather founded on Italians' interest in the American presidential race and Obama.

"Mine is not a magazine that can be accused of not using black girls," she added, counting several Italian Vogue covers featuring Campbell, Kebede and Alek Wek.

Despite comments to the contrary, there is little doubt that this issue was created on the tail-end of recent racial discussions that erupted on the catwalks last season, where black models were relegated to token roles. And while Sozzani and Meisel may rejoice in the thought of what this will hopefully bring for relatively unknown cover star, Sessilee Lopez (could it be the start of something big?) it is what it could potentially do for models of every colour and race that is the most exciting part.

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Image above: Naomi Campbell.

  • The July '08 issue of Italian Vogue will hit newsstands in Europe next Thursday 26 June, and in U.S. shortly after.

[Images: NY Times / Source]