If you had told me when I was first starting out in magazines that one day I’d be part of a group of Hearst editors given a private audience with the former First Lady of the United States of America, I would not have believed you. In fact, if you’d told me that even a year ago, I still wouldn’t have believed it. And yet, on a sunny September day in New York, that is exactly what I found myself doing. Fashion really does have a funny way of surprising you sometimes.
As we watched the great Michelle Obama being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey onstage at Hearst Towers in Midtown Manhattan, the atmosphere was nothing short of electric. In a room packed to the gills with power players, the front row of the audience was made up exclusively of young female students from two local schools: the Harlem Village Academy and The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria. I was lucky enough to sit next to the principal of one of them; it was clear that this would be a life-changing moment for these girls, and certainly one they would remember forever. But it wasn’t just them who felt this way: everyone in the room clearly knew this was a very special moment. And it was.
On stage, the conversation was both personal (Michelle and Barack’s marriage counselling) and political (her anger at Donald Trump). The former First Lady opened up on everything from the pressure of being the first black family in the White House to how she spent one of her first evenings alone once they had left (spoiler alert: it involves cheese on toast). It was a rare insight into a truly unique experience – namely, what it is like to be First Lady of the United States (and then trying to settle in to ‘normal’ life again afterwards).
Later, Michelle told me how she was relishing the ‘freedom’ of dressing for herself, rather than in the knowledge she was going to be scrutinised by millions of pairs of eyes. She also told me how she has always tried to use her fashion status with purpose, championing designers from around the world: ‘You know, there’s some people who enjoy that limelight. To me, it could be a bit oppressive. So I made sure that I could do good with the spotlight I had.’ It really was a pinch-me moment of epic proportions. What really stayed with me was when she said ‘we have a responsibility to be optimistic’. If ever there was a message to take into next year with you, it’s that.
Speaking of inspiring women, I am clearly not the only one to have absolutely fallen in love with Big Little Lies when series one aired last year. How brilliant it was to see this smart, female led drama become such a hit. As our cover star Zoë Kravitz puts it in our interview, ‘That was something that people wanted: women standing up for themselves and standing up for each other.’ With a second series due next year and the latest instalment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise in cinemas now, Zoë is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and successful actresses working in Hollywood today.
Yet like most of us, she suffers from moments of insecurity. ‘People come up to me on the street and tell me I’m beautiful and I still feel insecure,’ she says. ‘It’s important to be humble, but I also want to feel beautiful. I want to love myself.’ Reading this, I was struck by her honesty. How refreshing – and how comforting – it is to know that when we ourselves suffer moments of self-doubt, we aren’t alone.
Honesty is also present in abundance in Liv Siddall’s brilliant piece The Real Joy of Sex, which manages to be funny and revelatory. After reading many alarming headlines suggesting that nearly half of young women do not have an enjoyable sex life, Liv investigates the millennial attitude towards this and talks to the women who are opening up new conversations around female pleasure. It’s an eye-opening read.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the December issue without a bit of party spirit. Olive Pometsey meets the people shaping how we party now, from Tia Simon-Campbell and Naeem Davis of nightlife collective BBZ to Margaret Crow, co-founder of restaurant Neptune, which hosted one of London Style Week’s hottest parties. Zoom gets disco fever as we shine a spotlight on the glitziest accessories in town, while we celebrate the boldest, brightest beauty looks that will really pop on the dancefloor.
In a time when rules on party dressing are more relaxed than ever, allow Osman Ahmed to inspire you to feel confident, fabulous and, most importantly, like you in the hectic social whirl of the next few weeks as he examines what partywear means now. As Paris-based designer Kévin Germanier puts it, ‘It’s 2O18, the focus is on personal style.’ In other words, there has never been a better time for you to do you.
So, there you have it: a wonderful mix of the fun, the thought provoking and the inspiring. Which is exactly what you will find at our first-ever event. Taking place at London’s Saatchi Gallery from 3O November to 2 December, it will bring together women from fashion, music, sport, culture, beauty and Hollywood (and more besides). As well as talks from fashion creative Bella Freud, actors Rosamund Pike and Maisie Williams and writer Afua Hirsch, you can see designers Katharine Hamnett and Matty Bovan debate what it means to be an activist in fashion, and podcaster Emma Gannon, the BBC’s Mishal Husain and author Otegha Uwagba discuss how to shake up your career. There will also be palm readings, dance workouts, a pop-up LouisvuittonShop café, crystal healing sessions, DJ sets, the chance to become an LouisvuittonShop cover star... What more could you want? See you there!