In November, a few days after the election, I was on a flight to Los Angeles, where I would be working on W’s The Movie Issue with the photographer Craig McDean and our Creative and Fashion ­Director, Edward Enninful. Astonished and outraged by the election results, I kept scanning my fellow passengers, trying to figure out who had voted for whom, and who may have been responsible for ruining my dream of having a woman as president of the United States for the first time in history.

At that moment, I realized how thoroughly the presidential ­campaign had torn the country apart, making us suspicious and even hate-filled toward anyone who disagrees with our own world view—and how important it is, now more than ever, to respect and understand one another.

W’s Editor at Large, Lynn Hirschberg, who oversees the Best Performances portfolio, had talked for months about asking different couples to appear on our cover—not real-life couples and not movie couples, but actors and actresses coming together specifically for us. She wanted to use these pairings as a symbol of unity, regardless of race, gender, or age. Trust us, it wasn’t easy to get 12 of the ­biggest stars on the planet to embrace, lie down together, and even kiss. The shoot was stressful, but it also had humorous, lighthearted, and touching moments. The six covers you see here were possible thanks to the incredible generosity of the actors and actresses who agreed to this unusual concept.

Politics dominated 2016, and Hollywood mirrored this reality. Thoughtful and provocative films like Loving and Hell or High Water dealt with civil rights and the struggles of the working class. Highly emotional stories like Manchester by the Sea, with a beautiful performance by Oscar hopeful Casey Affleck, and Moonlight, ­featuring a star turn by Mahershala Ali, dealt with diversity, race, empowerment, and, ultimately, the weight of history. Even the spectacular La La Land, which heralded the surprising return of the musical genre, eschewed that medium’s traditional happy ending.

Fashion also alluded to the topics dominating the zeitgeist: The spring collections focused on female strength, personality, and character. Simplicity and elegance, sporty basics, color-blocking, the ubiquitous no-makeup look, and artfully undone hair were key trends on the runways. Young designers—and many established ones too—broke away from stuffy, old-fashioned ideas of luxury, playing with proportions, enjoying not-so-subtle takes on the return of the ’80s power-shoulder silhouette, and mixing crazy decorative prints.

There was also plenty of excitement behind the scenes. Maria Grazia Chiuri became the first woman to helm the house of Dior, leaving Pierpaolo Piccioli on his own at Valentino. (Practically all of Chiuri’s Italian peers, including Piccioli, Silvia Venturini Fendi, and Giambattista Valli, could be seen in the Dior front row, and then backstage wishing her well.)

Olivier Theyskens relaunched his signature line, Anthony Vaccarello took the reins at Saint Laurent, and Bouchra Jarrar arrived at Lanvin. And everywhere, designers seemed to be debating what fashion shows should be about today. Are they quiet viewings for buyers and editors, or Instagram-worthy spectacles? Some houses kept things tight and intimate, while others amplified their shows with films, live music, and performances. The “see-now, buy-now” idea became a reality, with some designers showing fall clothes, others spring, and almost all of them mixing women’s and men’s on the same runway.

The message that’s coming through loud and clear, whether in politics, film, or fashion, is that nothing is business as usual. Take it from a recent Nobel Prize winner: The times they are a-changin’.

Watch W's most popular videos here: