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Editor’s Letter: The Secret to Our Fantastical September Issue Full of 450+ Pages of Magic

Esaad Younes and Manuel Arnaut. Photo: Jabe

Do you believe in magic?

Let me tell you a secret. This September, we had planned to feature on our cover an actor based in the US. Traditionally, September is the biggest month of the year for fashion magazines, so we usually choose a big, global celebrity in the hopes of increasing our exposure and elevating the publication’s cachet. However, a few days before the cover shoot, when everything was planned and locked in, I received the news that the project had to be canceled, due to the actors’ strike in the US. It was discouraging and a waste of time, but as the saying goes, the show must go on – especially in fashion.

This small bump on the road gave us the opportunity to start from scratch, with a completely blank page. And I’m mentioning a blank page with intent, as this September we searched for inspiration in the pages of some of the most unforgettable fairytales. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been obsessed with The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In fact, I recently bought a coloring book for adults based on the delicious illustrations originally created by John Tenniel in 1865, featuring Alice, the Red Queen, and so many other characters we all love. And if you don’t love them too, off with your head!

These enchanting stories and their heroes and villains (don’t miss our black-and-white fashion editorial inspired by Cruella de Vil) helped us to conceptualize the main features of September, where we want to emphasize the most glamourous, fun, and maximalist side of the latest couture and ready-to-wear collections. This translated into five beautiful covers, photographed in three different cities, in what is perhaps our most daring project to date. In Paris’s Euro Disney, just in front of the palace of the Red Queen, Myriem Boukadida, Aouatif Saadi, and Farnoush Hamidian are dressed in spectacular couture. This cover illustrates the rising influence of Middle Eastern models, while also signaling the impact of Arabia in the global fashion scene. In Dubai, we met with Kuwaiti actress Haya Abdulsalam, the star of the hit Netflix show Devil’s Advocate. In Cairo, we had the privilege to spend one day with Esaad Younes, who looks absolutely regal, styled as never before with a dramatic, jeweled headpiece. In our exclusive interview, Younes comments on the importance of positive self-image at any age. “Why do I always say that I’m the most beautiful ‘girl’ in Egypt? To help women break free of the tiny box that they’re placed in as soon as they turn 40,” the icon shares.

Putting together these five covers in such a short amount of time – and an entire issue with the same fantastical flair – was a pleasure, though I would be lying if I said that it was easy. But like the Mad Hatter once told Alice, things are only impossible if you believe they are.

This sudden shift of the September cover made me think: why should we rely on international celebrities to create a big buzz? While at Vogue Arabia we are heavily invested in featuring local stars, designers, and creatives, we do have great sales and publicity around covers that include women like Sharon Stone and Cindy Crawford. I feel challenged to think what more we can do to continue to further elevate our regional fashion and entertainment system, in order to rely less on global names, and achieve the same impact with our talents at home.

This month, besides decoding the major global fashion trends, we also have a big focus on Arab style. One of my favorite stories is a big portfolio of regional designers shot in the seaside village of Enfeh, by Lebanese photographer Lara Zankoul. We are also honored to feature some of the most groundbreaking personalities in Arabia, including HE Sheikha Al-Zain Al-Sabah, the new Kuwait ambassador to the US; Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al-Thani, the founder of New York’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Art; and three other Gulf royals who we photographed wearing traditional thobes and costumes from Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.

Lastly, I would like to thank our colleague Gina Tadros for sharing with us her emotional first-person feature on the recent loss of her husband and 12-year-old son. Last summer, Gina and her family were victims of a terrible accident involving a jet ski, which tragically robbed her of the two most important men in her life. I met Gina on the first week I arrived in Dubai, and we worked together for two years, with desks almost side by side. Gina is the most amazing colleague, full of life and with the best sense of humor. I decided to ask Gina to pen her personal story to pay homage to her family, but also to give her a platform to continue to raise awareness towards safety during activities that might seem as innocent as enjoying the sea of Egypt’s north coast with your loved ones. If we can avoid at least one more accident, then the journalism we believe in is worth fighting for.

Originally published in the September 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia

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