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April 2020 Editor’s Letter: How To Stay Connected In A Time Of Self-Isolation

Vogue Arabia, self-isolation, April 2020, Eman Deng, Carla Guler

Vogue Arabia April 2020 cover star Eman Deng photographed by Carla Guler

The news of Covid-19 hitting Europe hard exploded at the same time I was abroad, attending fashion week. Runway shows, presentations, events, and other activities were either postponed or canceled, and both Paris and Milan became eerily empty, missing that vibrant energy felt during this time of the year. In the Arab world, while the situation is thankfully not as dramatic as in Italy, France, the UK, or in China – commerce, restaurants, and gyms are also interrupting their businesses, with most of the population staying at home, either in quarantine, self-isolation or practicing social distancing. This is a tragic situation, but at Vogue we are trying to look at it from a positive angle, and learn some lessons. While we feel more physically isolated than ever, there are inspiring stories of fraternity and union among people on social media. One of my favorite moments was recorded in Agrigento, Italy, with neighbors dancing on their balconies to the sound of another neighbor serenading the street. If, in the past, technology appeared to push us further apart, now, it is allowing us to share hope and to continue our lives with as much normality as possible, such as working from home.

Manuel_Arnaut editor in chief vogue arabia

Manuel Arnaut, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Arabia

These troubled times made me realize that some of the things that make us human are the capacity to connect with others, and also to thrive under less than favorable conditions. Therefore, we are dedicating this issue to inspiring individuals who succeeded against the odds. Our cover star, Eman Deng, a model on the rise who fled war-torn Sudan as a refugee, is the perfect example of resilience and success. A migrant myself, having to leave my family and my country while Portugal was experiencing a severe economic crisis, I can’t help but feel touched by Eman’s emotional testimony. Since the topic of migration is so relevant in the Arab world – with Saudi Arabia opening its borders and countries like the UAE being mainly populated by economic migrants – this April we further explore this idea of belonging (or not) with stories told in the first person by individuals I truly admire: Afef Jnifen, Rita Ora, Selena Gomez, and Prabal Gurung.

The current situation made me wonder what fashion information you want to see in the pages of your Vogue, with our team being divided on the topic. Do our readers want to buy Vogue Arabia to see glamorous things to dream and escape? Or do they want practicality and straight-to-the-point fashion? I believe the answer is probably somewhere in the middle, especially during self-isolation. While more than ever, we need clothes that are comfortable and home-friendly, our intellect still needs to travel. This led us to curate our trends pages in both extremes, focusing on denim but also couture. Lastly – but no less important – Vogue Arabia offers support and love to all the medical staff involved in the battle against Covid-19. We are paying a heartfelt homage to all the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals with a powerful portfolio captured by Tarek Moukaddem, who was brave enough to accept our challenge and photograph real-life heroes from the Rafik Hariri Hospital to the Lebanese Red Cross, with all the precautions we took to produce this piece. A big thank you to them, not just as a magazine editor, but as a fellow citizen.

Originally published in the April 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia

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