Editor’s Letter: Introducing the 2021 Originals Issue

Dolly Parton wears a Chanel jumpsuit; Chopard earrings, necklace, and rings; Tiffany & Co. bracelet....
Dolly Parton wears a Chanel jumpsuit; Chopard earrings, necklace, and rings; Tiffany & Co. bracelet.

As we planned our annual Originals issue, everyone on W’s staff was in perfect agreement that there was no one who embodied the theme better than the legendary Dolly Parton—so we were thrilled when Editor at Large Lynn Hirschberg informed us that Parton was on board for a big story (“Good Golly, It’s Dolly!”). Immediately, Fashion Director Nora Milch, Senior Style Editor Allia Alliata di Montereale, and I began conspiring with Parton’s longtime creative director, Steve Summers, who regaled us with incredible stories about his life with the all-American star. We packed up Chanel and Louis Vuitton jumpsuits, and Gucci skirts and turtlenecks, and sent them to Nashville in advance of our arrival so that they could be customized to Parton’s petite hourglass frame by her personal tailor.

Parton, who is 75 years old, has been photographed many times, so we knew someone unexpected had to shoot her for us. When I first spoke to the director and artist Harmony Korine, he told me he had grown up in Nashville and had always worshipped her. I knew it was a match made in heaven, and I hope our cover of the superstar, surrounded by vintage Dolly dolls, makes you smile as much as it does us. For all her playfulness, however, Parton is also a serious and determined businesswoman who has outlasted virtually every other performer of her generation. In Hirschberg’s profile, we find out that Parton didn’t even slow down during the pandemic, when she worked on a book, snatched a couple of Emmys, and donated $1 million toward research for the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.

This issue celebrates all different types of originality, from the director Wes Anderson, who gives us a behind-the-scenes look at his new film, The French Dispatch (“On Set”), to the up-and-coming artist Hugh Hayden, whose work will be featured at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami next month (“Sharp As a Tack”), to the inveterate fashion originals Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who just launched a children’s line under their cult label the Row. Quil Lemons captured the boundary-shattering model Precious Lee (“She’s the One”), and photographer Jamie Hawkesworth and stylist Max Pearmain revisited looks from Junya Watanabe’s inspirational archives to fete the designer’s three decades in fashion (“Junya, Junya, Junya!”). And with “Full Speed Ahead,” the hairstylist Jawara, along with his frequent collaborators Rafael Pavarotti, Ibrahim Kamara, and Thom Walker, literally blew us away. I have had the pleasure of working with Jawara since we both started our careers, and it’s been incredible watching him become such a star.

Finally, in our third annual Originals Portfolio (“Nobody Does It Like Them”), we pay tribute to some of the most fascinating people in culture, art, fashion, name it. The supermodel, beauty entrepreneur, and style icon Iman; the filmmaker Julia Ducournau, who is the first female director in 28 years to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes; Graydon Carter, an editor I have long admired; and the designer Maximilian Davis, who recently dressed former W cover star and recent Emmy winner Michaela Coel, are just four examples in a long list. Witnessing how these nonconformists forge their own path is always inspirational for us, and encourages us to push boundaries. We hope this issue will make you want to do the same.


Sara Moonves