Stefano Tonchi on the Women Who Made the All-Women Issue of W Magazine
Guest edited by the one and only Cate Blanchett.
The logo of this magazine stands for “Women.” W launched in 1972 as a supplement to the industry newspaper Women’s Wear Daily, chronicling the lives of fascinating women in the world of style. They have always been the protagonists of this magazine; nonetheless, with the benefit of hindsight, we have to admit that sometimes our subjects were also objectified. The undeniable reality is that, for many years, women modeled clothes mostly designed by men, in order to be photographed by men. Things have gradually progressed since those early days, and in the past decade specifically, W has been at the forefront of championing diversity and inclusivity. Still, not enough has changed in the media industry and in the world at large. There is still a long way to go to achieve real equality.
This issue—edited, styled, photographed, and written exclusively by women—was not conceived as a political statement or an act of rebellion. We thought of it as a learning experience, imagining we were staging a play in which all the roles were played by women. In the process, we realized that years of discrimination and questionable decisions cannot be waved away as if by magic: Fashion photography, like art and cinema, has been male-dominated for decades. But we were thrilled to confirm that nowadays there is a great wealth of female talent in all of these fields. It needs to be not just acknowledged but given a bigger platform on a continuous basis.
As a starting point, we invited Cate Blanchett to be our guest editor. Blanchett is one of the most successful and intriguing actresses in the world, and has a rich personal life to match; we knew that she would be a real partner in this special project. She opened up her busy schedule to work on a portfolio full of surprises over several months, collaborating with our style director, Sara Moonves, and nine different female photographers on shoots using only clothes designed by female designers. (Three of them shot arresting videos, too: Go to video.wmagazine.com to see them all.) The final result is a visual diary that shows the many roles that women can inhabit.
From the very beginning, Blanchett also had ideas to propose, like how women are influencing the worlds of design and architecture (there are profiles of Es Devlin and Frida Escobedo). She also sat down with Miuccia Prada to discuss with Penny Martin, the editor in chief of the U.K. magazine The Gentlewoman, how she and Prada have become inspirational figures for an entire generation—and to give props to the women who, in turn, inspire them.
Another important story, photographed by the artist Sharon Lockhart and written by our features and culture director, Diane Solway, documents the rise of seven female gallerists who changed the art world in New York, setting a template for future generations. And the writer Lauren Collins interviewed Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri to examine how Chiuri has managed to transform one of the most feminine labels in history into one of the most feminist.
Blanchett genuinely loves fashion and is in control of all her styling decisions, whether it’s in her personal life or for important events like the Cannes Film Festival, where she served as president of the jury this year. Taking her lead, we asked three talented stylists to create highly personal and inventive shoots with young female photographers. Katie Grand worked with Charlotte Wales to transform the supermodel Adriana Lima into a fabulous Real Housewife; Marie-Amélie Sauvé, together with Stef Mitchell, upended dowdy town-and-country stereotypes; and Lotta Volkova enlisted Collier Schorr to show how conceptual clothes can create a big impact without trying too hard.
In this collectible issue, every image and every word on every page is the result of a female-driven collaboration—down to the typeface you see on our big stories, which was designed especially for us by the artist Caitlin Keogh. We approached this endeavor as a tribute to women, but it eventually became proof of how editors, writers, stylists, and photographers who firmly believe in the power of a magazine to inspire and tell stories can move the cultural conversation forward.
Cate Blanchett, Interpreted: 9 Female Artists and Photographers Expose the Actress’s Power as a Muse in a Special Issue of W Magazine
Cate Blanchett wears an Alexander McQueen dress.
Beauty: Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in Color 2.0, Neo Nude A-Line Highlight in Color 10, Neo Nude A-Line Blush in Color 50, Eye Tint in Color 23 Camel Smoke, Smooth Silk Eye Pencil in Black, Eyes To Kill Mascara in Color 1.0, High Precision Brow Pencil in Sand Blond, Rouge d’Armani Lipstick.
Cate Blanchett wears a Victoria Beckham coat.
Cate Blanchett in a Martine Rose trenchcoat.
Cate Blanchett on the cover of W magazine.
“People are complex, never one thing. I photograph them over a period of time, to see how they change. So my idea was to portray Cate just as she was when she came into the studio, with no makeup and in her own clothes. Then we dressed her up as if she was going to a major event. It’s interesting to wonder: Who is the real Cate? “
From Left: Cate Blanchett wears a Vince tank; the Row pants; her own necklace and ring. Vera Wang gown; De Beers earrings.
“I wrote a script about a scientist who creates robots in his lover’s likeness. Their plan is to help society, but it all goes wrong. The scientist decides to destroy the robots, but they kill him and her instead and take off. I’ve been reading a lot about what’s going on in the world of artificial intelligence—the title Uncanny Valley refers to the unsettling feeling elicited by humanoid objects—and it’s not such a crazy scenario.”
Clockwise from top left: Chloé top, pants, pendant necklace, and boots; Bulgari necklace. Sergio Rossi boots. Stella McCartney coat. Victoria Beckham coat. Hermès shirtdress; Sergio Rossi boots.
Chloé top, pants, pendant necklace, and boots.
“For a long time my work has focused on women and the ways in which they defy society’s repressive codes. I was interested in how female singers are universally treated as objects of desire. At first, Cate looks gorgeous, but when she sings it’s a male’s voice. The audience heckles her, and she becomes confrontational. When the music comes back on, she does a seductive dance but her face is evil. For her final act of subversion, she takes off her hair and makeup and walks away. That part was Cate’s idea. Fuck the beauty.”
“I hadn’t met Cate before the shoot, but she reminded me of women like Simone de Beauvoir, Joan Didion, and Peggy Guggenheim, all of whom were relaxed and self-confident with their body language. We shot in Cate’s own beautiful garden in the English countryside, and she was game to try every crazy idea we came up with.”
From left: Sonia Rykiel coat; Vince T-shirt. Hi-Tec sneakers; Blanchett’s own jeans.
“My starting points for this shoot were cinematic, as they always are: Fellini’s women and Coppola’s One From the Heart. I came up with a narrative: It’s 5 a.m. and she’s atop a muscle car, then she’s furiously typing, connecting all her ideas. I was trying to create a wild spirit.”
Versace dress; David Webb gold, platinum, and diamond earrings.
Cate wearing Attico dress; Ellen Christine Couture headpiece.
“I started out wanting to do something quite surreal with collage, but in the end I painted on the images, which is something I did in my work years ago. I like the coolness and modernity of it.”
Cate Blanchett wears a Marine Serre dress and catsuit. Nicholas Kirkwood x Marine Serre boots; Repossi bracelet and ring. Givenchy dress.
“I’m interested in portraying my subjects in a spirited way. Thankfully, Cate is always game to explore, to play. It was she who suggested that for the first part of this shoot we run around the block for 10 minutes. There was no location van, no producer, no hair and makeup—it was so special. We reconvened at sunrise the next morning in Times Square, and shot some more. She’s interested in taking risks, as am I.”
From left: Givenchy coat and belt; Chopard earrings and ring. Alberta Ferretti blouse, pants, and belt; Vhernier earrings Proenza Schouler shoes.
“I come from a fine-arts background and work a lot with moving image. For this shoot, we had a studio set up in Cate’s backyard. Her daughter was chasing a dog and cat around, and I was filming her watching her, using a VHS camcorder from the ‘80s. I wanted to do something that was more real than glamorous. She caught glimpses of herself dressed in this masculine way, and she adopted a character. The fact that she trusted me with my little camera and rolled with this makes her the best person ever.”
Cate Blanchett wears a Martine Rose jacket, top, and jeans; Miu Miu boots.
“I like pictures where the psychology is hard to understand. You don’t know who the person is, or what they’re thinking. I wanted a woman passing by, like an apparition. You catch a glimpse of her and she’s like a ray of light, too good to be true. In the film, the man spends all of his time chasing her down.”
From left: Simone Rocha dress. The Vampire’s Wife dress; Jimmy Choo shoes.
Cate Blanchett wears a Vanessa Seward shirt and jeans; hat from Early Halloween, New York; Chopard earrings; Alberta Ferretti belt.