‘What is important in a DRESS is the WOMAN wearing it’ - YVES SAINT LAURENT
EVERYONE has at least one woman in their life who has served as a role model or inspiration. Most have a few. Mine, for example, include a range of brilliant women, from Patti Smith (the epitome of cool) and Diane Keaton (style and wit) to Gloria Steinem (power woman in every sense of the word). And then there are the women in my personal life, like my English and Art teachers at school, who made me feel like I was really good at something when other subjects proved to be more challenging, or the late Sally Brampton, the original editor of ELLE, who continues to be an inspiration today. We all need people to look up to and take life tips from. And with that in mind, we have chosen four women who inspire us to be our best selves to star on four special covers for our inaugural Wonder Women issue.
Our first, Ashley Graham, is a model who has navigated an industry known for demanding thinness on her own terms. She debunks the myth that curves and fashion are mutually exclusive. Let’s hope this is just the start of a bigger shift in attitude to body size. Because whether you’re a size 8 or 18, what matters most is that you are happy in your own skin. Donna Karan, another Wonder Woman who has always embraced women’s bodies in all their variations, interviews her on page 150.
Alek Wek’s extraordinary journey from South Sudanese refugee to top model and activist has been well documented. Not only has she sustained a career in a notoriously fickle industry for more than two decades, but she has often spoken out on the subject of refugees and is an ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency. But it wasn’t until I spent time with her on the shoot for this issue that I discovered her personality: she is one of the brightest, funniest and warmest women I have been lucky enough to work with, and I think our shoot really captures this. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
I have always loved Susan Sarandon. A mother of three, and a working woman with a film career that spans five decades, she’s a true Wonder Woman (who can forget that iconic Thelma & Louise finale?). She can also rock a Saint Laurent jacket with more attitude than a woman half her age. If I have even a smidgeon of her grace, spark and beauty in my seventieth decade, I’ll be more than happy.
When Beth Ditto presented an award to Christine and the Queens at the ELLE Style Awards earlier this year, she managed to bring the house down (and get the mother of all parties started) with her irreverent comedy and sheer, unadulterated chutzpah. As well as being an incredible musician and perform-tailoring er who has broken down barriers both around size and sexuality, she is also someone who lights up the room. Her interview with fellow Wonder Woman Debbie Harry is fabulous, and I’m so happy to have her in the issue.
As well as this all-round brilliance and verve, these women share a singular sense of personal style that emanates from knowing exactly who they are. In the legendary words of Yves Saint Laurent, ‘Over the years, I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman wearing it.’ But with the world of fashion now moving at an ever-faster pace, sometimes it’s easy to forget who you are. For our feature on page 188, The Clothes That Made Me, Bibby Sowray talks to a variety of women about just that. On the subject of Wonder Women, Simon Mills’ essay on the women who have shaped him is a fun, insightful read from a male perspective. And Lisa Markwell’s piece exploring her career shift from newspaper editor to trainee chef shows that changing your life and taking on a new challenge can be both scary and thrilling in equal measure. I hope this inspires you to take a leap into the unknown and see where it takes you.
Our fashion pages take you through this season’s classics, from the reinvented trench to the sharp, Eighties-inspired trend, as well as the new way to wear denim (mix it with your glitziest evening pieces). Oh, and we also covered Beth Ditto in flowers for a moment of simple joy, because sometimes personal style means allowing yourself to break out and let your heart sing and your soul soar. After all, true style really is about feeling happy with who you are. So whether that involves finally finding your perfect winter coat, dipping into this season’s obsession with cowboy boots or learning to embrace each birthday as it comes, take inspiration from Susan Sarandon, who says: ‘Surround yourself with people who celebrate you, and go on adventures.’ Amen to that!