When we sat down to discuss this special His & Hers issue, an emotional debate flared up around a subject that has dominated the fashion conversation this season: Is today’s fashion gender fluid, meaning that the codes of masculine and feminine are no longer fixed, or is it gender neutral, skirting the issue altogether?

For my generation, which lived through the gay-rights battles and the aftermath of the AIDS crisis, fluidity remains a political statement, forever associated with the LGBT agenda. But for W’s younger editors—not to mention the many millennials who follow and interact with the magazine on social media—the current merging of men’s and women’s collections, as proposed by designers like Alessandro Michele at Gucci and Christopher Bailey at Burberry, is simply a reflection of their way of thinking. How you dress is not necessarily a matter of gender, it’s just another way to express yourself.

However you may answer these questions for yourself, in this issue we decided to celebrate women and men who dare to challenge stereotypes and conventions by choosing exactly who they want to be. We admire the 25 people we selected for this year’s New Royals portfolio for their talent and commitment, regardless of their gender, race, or age. Risk-taking actors like Tilda Swinton and Jared Leto, Renaissance people like ­Shirley MacLaine and Pharrell Williams, controversial figures like Winona Ryder and Marc Jacobs, forward-thinking activists and philanthropists, models and designers—these are the heroes of our time and W’s role models for the next generation.

The stylist Melanie Ward, a longtime W contributor, worked closely with the designer Helmut Lang and has made the case that men’s and women’s fashion go hand in hand. She teamed up with artist Collier Schorr to create a fashion portfolio that gives a youthful and original twist to the idea of a uniform. In this issue, we also welcome to the publication stylist and Contributing Fashion ­Creative Director Katie Grand, a powerhouse who has created some of the most memorable fashion stories of the past two decades. See her fresh, on-the-pulse take on haute couture in “High Street."

The designer Richard James is someone else who has played with conventions throughout his long career, bringing clever ideas and new energy to the Savile Row tradition, always with a touch of British humor. Now he is opening his first store in the U.S., and we wanted to be the first to share that exciting news.

Sergei Polunin, whose athletic body is covered in tattoos, is equally unafraid to fly in the face of convention. The most exciting ballet star of his generation is now taking a turn in his career, starring in two highly anticipated movies, Murder on the Orient Express, with Johnny Depp, and Red ­Sparrow, with Jennifer Lawrence.

The two very special houses we visited for this issue show how important the tension between tradition and transgression is for creative personalities. Danh Vo, a much talked-about artist who will have a major survey at New York’s Guggenheim next year, created his ideal retreat in Mexico City, where he transformed a traditional town house into a spare architectural jewel, populated by artworks and design objects of lyrical power. On the other side of the world, on Italy’s Lake Como, legendary film director Luchino ­Visconti found his personal heaven in his family’s centuries-old Villa Gastel, a place full of memories and beautiful things. A new generation, including the director’s grandnephew the photographer Guido Taroni, who shot the house for us, is keeping up the ancestral tradition.

Even the late jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane, who had strong opinions on ­everything and everyone, somehow feels at home among the rule breakers in this issue (read his final interview, “When Tory Met Kenny”). Actual royals, like the Duchess of Windsor, were fans of ­Kenny’s fabulous fakes. And no wonder. “A tart could become a lady with three strands of pearls,” he quipped. Talk about the transformative power of fashion.

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