When the time came for me and my team to put together this special Future Issue – dedicated to the revolution that a new generation of talent is bringing about in the fashion industry and beyond – I could not have been more excited. There are moments when, as a tilt to youth takes hold, you can almost feel society shifting its priorities and concerns. And anyone with a smartphone knows that we are living in such a moment. As a creative person, I find it – and them – immensely inspiring.
I wanted to harness this new mood in a way that made sense for Vogue. Firstly, we took the decision to fill the issue with work by the best of photography and styling’s new guard, assembling a crack team of twentysomethings to take the Vogue lens and use it to document the world as they see it. It has been wonderful to watch their work come to life. Meanwhile, a brilliant selection of young voices has written on themes ranging from anxiety and digital dating to identity politics and the thrilling new designers set to shape fashion’s next chapter.
What a bunch. Whether it is fashion photography’s bright young thing Tyler Mitchell or Nadine Ijewere – who, with her portrait of global superstar Dua Lipa (herself a remarkable game changer) has become the first black woman ever to shoot a Vogue cover – a common theme to their work surely has to be integrity. They are all so honest. I don’t get the feeling they are doing it for fame. They do it for art and the times they live in, not just so they can book a Prada campaign. They have a mission and care deeply about changing the world we live in. Friendship is everything.
It reminds me of how I started out, as a precocious teenage stylist in the late 1980s. It was a different world. There was no social media, I was 16, coming from a sheltered background into a world of fashion, music and film. I went from living at home to being part of a group of contemporaries that included Pat McGrath, Craig McDean, David Sims, Corinne Day, Melanie Ward, Juergen Teller and Venetia Scott. I asked a friend of mine the other day, “What was I like back then?” because I couldn’t remember. “Very shy, very inquisitive,” came the answer.
I think kids today are more “aware” than I was as a young man, but they are lucky to have a community and a mission, as we did, and often collaborate. I also believe that different generations have things to learn from one another. I like it when experts mentor raw talent, when young photographers are guided by the titans of the industry, which is what you will find throughout this magazine. There’s an exciting polish there, bringing that Vogue quality to a younger set (rather than just handing over the keys). I firmly believe we are all in this together.
Being young isn’t any easier these days, and there’s no reason to believe that 2019 will be any more straightforward than 2018. I really do sympathise with the unique worries that come with youth now. It’s so much harder to make mistakes when it feels like everyone is watching. The pressure to succeed – or to be seen as successful – is all-consuming. We didn’t have that. My advice would be to hold your nerve, do what comes from the heart, and don’t listen when people tell you what you can’t achieve. Stay firm, stay focused. You can do it.