Our spring Women’s Fashion issue is always made in an optimistic frame of mind; we begin closing it in January, when the year is fresh, and the sense of possibility — however false or short-lived — still potent.
This particular January, of course, felt more charged than most. Last year was our annus horribilis, and our expectations for this year are bound to be impossible. But while some eras have come to their legal or official conclusions, their consequences and repercussions linger — 2020 was a reminder that the past is never the past, however much we pretend otherwise.
Given this, it seems fitting that the stories in this issue are almost equally divided between those that look forward and those that look back. In the first category, there are our fashion stories, conceived in anticipation of a time in the not-too-distant future when we can once again do things — go to a party; go to a party with a lot of people; go to a party with a lot of people for which we’ll want to dress up — that now feel impossible (although maybe these are retrospective stories as well, a nostalgia for recent history).
Often, however, looking forward also means contending with decisions and policies made long ago. In one essay from this issue, writer at large Ligaya Mishan explores the new generation of food activists, whose collective mission concerns everything from how our food is produced (and who gets to produce it) to who gets to eat it. The pandemic, Mishan argues, awakened many of us to the fact that getting to choose what we want to eat, along with when and how — Vegan? Organic? Free-range? Local? — is a privilege granted to far too few. The dysfunctions of our modern food system date to the 15th century, she writes; this plague has offered us the opportunity to see the problems of that system in stark and unignorable terms, and decide how we can take action. Because while the pandemic will eventually run its course, these systemic shortcomings will not: The time to repair them is now.
But as sobering as such knowledge may be, it, too, is cause for hope. The final chapter has yet to be written; what is broken can and must be repaired. So let us greet the new year with enthusiasm, without forgetting the lessons of the old one — we can see 2020 as the year in which everything went wrong; or we can see it as the year in which we finally opened our eyes, and began the march, illuminated and determined, into our shared future.