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Editor’s Letter: On Working with Rekha and Letting Imaginations Travel in Our Latest Issue

Manuel Arnaut

Vogue Arabia editor-in-chief Manuel Arnaut. Photo: Ziga Mihelcic

As we prepare for the summer holidays this month, we decided to put together an issue that invites your imagination to travel all around the world – the real world and the fictional one. As you will discover when going through these pages, we visited the gardens of Versailles, recently renovated with the sponsorship of French-Armenian perfumer Francis Kurkdjian; we traveled to Cairo for the launch of Egypt’s first fashion week; we wandered the streets of Tangier to showcase head-turning out-of-office looks; and we even dived into the oceans to understand all the hype around mermaids, for a feature illustrated with poetical images created in Beirut by photographer Lara Zankoul, whom I’ve been following and wanting to collaborate with for a while.

Model Theresa Hage shot by Lara Zankoul

As expected, all of these exciting journeys need a wardrobe to match. Therefore, in our July/August edition, we curate the best of the pre-fall collections, while also giving you ideas on what items to recycle and reuse om the past season. At Vogue, we believe that you should buy fewer but better-quality items that can and should have multiple lives, and be used across different periods of time.

Yasmine Sima wearing the Lebanese tarboosh, shot by Greg Adamski

As you already realized from this month’s cover, we also headed to India to try to decipher one of the country’s most seductive enigmas. Standing as Bollywood’s most iconic living legend, Rekha graced the silver screen in over 300 movies, with an acclaimed career glimmering with success, but also seasoned with a cloud of mystery. Besides not taking on any acting role since 2014, Rekha also hasn’t done any interviews for over two decades. I’m honored that she accepted my invitation to be on this month’s cover, the actor’s first ever Vogue cover. And how did this all happen? In a very organic and almost innocent way. I met the actor during the launch of the impressive Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre in Mumbai, in March. The moment I witnessed her powerful arrival and magnetic persona, I asked a friend if I could be introduced. After a one-minute chat, the invitation was made. I believe it was destiny and the universe plotting for this cover, as Rekha mentioned in our multiple phone conversations during the preparation for this project.

Looks from Maison Farah Wali lensed by Natasha Yonan

This cover story was a true labor of love, and I would like to personally thank some of my key accomplices on this project. From our team in Dubai, Ankita Chandra glued this photoshoot together. Tarun Khiwal did a spectacular job creating our beautiful images. Bandana Tewari truly captured Rekha’s essence with her words. And star designer Manish Malhotra did a stellar job creating in record time a full wardrobe for this shoot (Malhotra is soon opening a major boutique in Dubai Mall). Lastly, I have to thank Farzana Jafri, the actor’s right hand, and Rekha herself, who was the true mastermind behind all these images, gifting us with not only her presence and me, but also her know-how, elevated taste, and understanding of iconic photography. Now, it’s time to turn the page, start dreaming, and think of your next destination… As one of the most revered Vogue editors Diana Vreeland said, “The eye has to travel.”

Originally published in the July/August 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia

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