These days, when everything seems to move faster than ever, it’s hard to keep apace with the news. Last October, when we celebrated our first-ever his-and-hers issue, fashion brands like Burberry, Tom Ford, and Gucci were starting to show their men’s and women’s collections simultaneously, upending a fashion calendar that still separates the girls from the boys.

Just six months later, coed collections have practically become the norm. The change came about, in part, as an effort to present a unified message to customers, but I believe it is also a reaction to the times. The most interesting collections right now are the ones that blur the lines not just between genders but also between generations and races. As reactionary politicians attempt to close borders, fashion is making a point of opening them by celebrating diversity and tolerance.

Take, for example, the designer Brandon Maxwell, who is featured in “Shine Bright.” Maxwell is intent on making glamorous dressing an option for all women. “The most important thing for me...is that when a young girl in the middle of nowhere comes across an image of my collection on social media, she sees someone like herself. Not just African-American, but also Indian, Asian, Hispanic,” he says. This emphasis on inclusiveness is clearly a priority also for Ethan James Green, a young photographer whose work appears for the first time in the pages of W with “Supreme Court,” a fashion story with a truly contemporary cast of characters. Meanwhile, Heron Preston, featured in the men’s side of this issue (“Mr. Clean”), is building one of the buzziest new labels around—nominally for men, but also appealing to women—by promoting sustainability and even partnering with the New York City Department of Sanitation.

April is also the month when we take a chance, introducing the next generation of talented people whose names you should know. Case in point: Anya Taylor-Joy, who started making waves a couple of years ago with her role as a tormented teenager in the period movie The Witch. After her stellar performance in Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s recent hit thriller, it’s certain we will be hearing a lot more about her. “Pure Joy,” photographed by Paolo Roversi, is the actress’s first foray into the rarefied world of haute couture, and a welcome break from the intense characters she has embodied. Dane DeHaan, our male cover star, is someone whose career we have been tracking for longer; he’s already had several attention-grabbing roles and even stints as the face of Prada. But he, too, is at a pivotal moment. Thanks to his starring role in Luc Besson’s science-fiction thriller Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, DeHaan is entering the big leagues (“Great Dane"). Both of these young actors remind me of classic silver-screen stars: They approach their work with a drive and seriousness that is rare today.

I felt that same sense of purpose and respect for the past in all the up-and-comers in the worlds of fashion, art, design, film, beauty, and music profiled in “Heads Above the Rest.” The talented young men and women we discovered work in wildly different ways, but they acknowledge their mentors and those who paved the way for them. They are also invariably optimistic about the future, and confident that they will prevail over any obstacles in their path. At this moment in time, that’s a very powerful message indeed.

Watch W's most popular videos here: