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Editor’s Letter: Why Our September Issue Puts People First, Clothes Second

Editor-in-chief Manuel Arnaut with HH Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum

This month, Vogue Arabia is celebrating its 50th issue, in the year that the UAE celebrates 50 years. A big occasion calls for a meaningful cover, and I’m extremely honored to have HH Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, among other official roles, gracing our front page. I met Her Highness some years ago, when she generously supported a charity design exhibition I organized in benefit of Dubai Cares. The Sheikha’s team and I have been in talks for four years to work on a profile piece, as the royal has never been on any magazine cover. Naturally, I’m happy this finally happened, and I’m thankful that Her Highness, who is one of the few women in the Al Maktoum family with a public role, chose Vogue Arabia for this press debut. In this historical interview, Her Highness comments on the meaningful work she develops to support the creative community in Dubai, and the importance of happiness. She also opens up about being a mother and the daughter of one of the most brilliant world leaders, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Photographing Sheikha Latifa in Al Shindagha Historical Neighborhood, where the history of the UAE started, and listening to her stories of the past and her vision for the future, was an absolute privilege, and a feature we are excited to share with you on p150. With the rising sun illuminating the Sheikha, this cover stands united with all 27 editions of Vogue around the world in embracing the theme of New Beginnings.

HH Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum photographed by Paola Kudacki

Although September is usually a month of fashion exhilaration – when we reveal the new trends, the new faces, and everything that will shake the next season – I’m writing this editor’s letter feeling a dark cloud above me. Across the Arab world, we are experiencing moments of serious distress, and every day, the news gets harder to digest. Not only has humanity suffered an enormous hit with Covid-19, we are now facing a new wave of hunger, instability, and lack of access to everything we have taken for granted, such as medicine and electricity. While we are very privileged in the Gulf, this reality is on our doorstep, affecting many of our neighboring nations. It has all become too dark, too fast, touching the lives of people we know.

It is in this context that we decided to work on a September issue that cares to celebrate creatives who are now navigating hardships, and even people not in the fashion world, whose stories of perseverance give hope and inspiration. On a personal level, I truly connect with some of the words we have printed in this issue. Although my home country hasn’t recently experienced war or extreme disaster, when I left Portugal seeking better opportunities, I was jobless, with almost no savings, and emotionally exhausted after working for a decade during the peak of Portugal’s financial crisis. I remember the horrible feeling of not knowing if the money would be enough to get me through to the end of the month. This life lesson made me more grateful, and so I can relate with many of the real life heroes we are profiling, starting on p190.

Zuhair Murad photographed by Julian Torres for Vogue Arabia September 2021

Back to creativity, we spoke to Zuhair Murad about his return to the Parisian calendar, after his headquarters got completely destroyed in last year’s Beirut Blast. His couture collection, which we photographed moments before he presented at Lycée Louis-le-Grand, received wonderful reviews, and I can’t wait to see all his dresses being worn by the world’s biggest celebrities.

Also in Paris, we had the opportunity to witness the couture debut of Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga. I had a great sit-down with the Georgian designer, and I was blown away by the breathtaking beauty and modernity of his first couture collection. After Balenciaga stopped producing couture 53 years ago, returning to the house’s roots was Gvasalia’s biggest challenge to date. He passed the test with flying colors. Not only are the designs perfect for the time we are living in, his approach to a more democratized couture, and the importance of starting a dialogue with his younger audience on the value of craftsmanship, is refreshing. The runway show, without any music, in the original salons of Balenciaga in Avenue Georges V, was a real treat, and so rich in its simplicity. As Gvasalia says, he proved that he is not just “the sneakers guy,” after all.

Balenciaga fall 2021 couture photographed by Axel Morin for Vogue Arabia September 2021

This month, we meet four talented Palestinian designers and discuss the importance of fashion to preserve the cultural DNA and essence of their country. The dedication to their craft is meaningful, and more important than ever. We also speak to Afghan director and journalist Nelofer Pazira, who shares her story of growing up in Kabul and fleeing Afghanistan with her family – and how her charity, Dyana Afghan Women’s Fund, is helping women today. If you are reading this editor’s letter and thinking that suddenly Vogue doesn’t seem to be about fashion trends, I would like to stop you there. Yes, we love fashion – the fashion produced with love, mastery, and respect for the world we live in – but we love above all the people who make it, and the people who wear it. And this focus on good people, their struggles and their victories, is something that will always remain in style, in September and every other month.

Read Next: HH Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stars on Her First Ever Cover for Our 50th Issue and 50 Years of the UAE 

Originally published in the September 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia

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