Photograph by David X Prutting/BFA.com/REX/Shutterstock.
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.