Jessica Bailey Grazia
Credit: Lara Blackwell.

I began 2020 in a mask.

The seconds between 11.59pm in 2019 and the first few moments of 2020 felt surreal and exciting. This wasn’t a regular New Year’s Eve. It was the turn of the new decade which caused a lot of people, including myself, to reflect on how far they’d come and, more specifically, where exactly it was they were headed.

I was in New York with my great friends who had decided only the day prior that they would fly from London on the promise I could show them a good time when the clock struck midnight in Manhattan. While they were in the air, I booked as glamorous as I could find; a Truman Capote-inspired, black-tie masquerade ball at the iconic Soho Grand Hotel on West Broadway.

Seconds before the clock’s hand reached the 12, Frank Sinatra’s triumphant anthem “New York, New York” reached its peak. A roving spotlight lit up the hundreds of people in the ballroom, all in fancy masks and hemmed in by a ceiling of white helium balloons. They raised their champagne glasses in the air as glittering confetti exploded. Sinatra rang out: “If I can make it there, I’ll make it…”

“ANYWHERE!” roared the crowd. “It’s up to yooouu, New York, New Yorrrrkkkk”.

Nine weeks later, the city was a casualty.

A dynamic, vibrant and diverse place whose economy churned on the keen ambition of its workers – that, and the price of rent – was completely ravished by illness and riven by unrest. Streets were desolate. Bars, restaurants and retail spaces were shuttered as residents scurried to second homes. Your eyes would meet with a masked stranger on the street and without even saying a word, you knew their eyes were just as weary and just as anxious as you were.

Seven months on and, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired; pockmarked by an ever-changing world while trying to corral all of the feelings all of the time. American writer Cleo Wade ironically penned this exhaustion in her pre-pandemic book Where To Begin. “Today I am breathing through fatigue, fear and feeling overwhelmed,” she wrote. “I breathe because when I breathe, I am reminded that I am alive.”

Piecing together this issue was challenging. Like we tend to do every couple of weeks in our lives, our team has pivoted on its direction; moulded it one way, massaged it another, added flour, kneaded it again. We’ve started over, reset, rebuilt, recalibrated and reconsidered our purpose. (Like most of you, we’ve done it all remotely too, and with most of us stationed in different pockets of the world. I know at least two of our editors need urgent chiropractors to fix their bad backs – direct consequences of writing from their beds.)

Photography: Lara Blackwell. Jessica wears Christopher Esber dress, Valére earrings.

Inevitably, these waves of transformations informed the pages ahead of you. As the fashion industry starts its motor again with mini dolls (a la Dior’s Fall/Winter 2020/2021 Haute Couture collection) and puppet shows (read: Moschino Spring/Summer 2021), contributing fashion editor Grace O’Neill questions the necessity of fashion’s front row on p52. Then, wedged between hundreds of pages of escapist fashion shoots shot in Milan, Paris, Byron Bay and beyond, contributing beauty editor Emily Algar has traversed the globe through beauty products – and all without breaking a single travel restriction (p192).

“Slowing down does not mean losing something, but rather having the time to produce something that has a strong intrinsic meaning,” writes Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri in an exclusive essay for GRAZIA on the innovations the pandemic has prompted. “I hope that the awakening of the collective consciousness will also motivate us to root out some of the ills that plague society; rampant waste, political messages reduced to mere acts of PR, abstentionism, and turning a blind eye and deaf ear to modern problems.” (p334.)

To use Kim Kardashian West’s words on p288, “Maybe we all needed a break. Maybe this was the reset?” And maybe she’s right. This sentiment is shared by some New Yorkers as well as seen in a closing feature on how those at the epicentre of the virus are rebuilding their ambitions, heartbreaks and livelihoods – and thus forming a new blueprint to the city of Gotham (p376).

I will likely bid arrivederci to 2020 in the same way I welcomed it – in a mask. How we reconstitute that excitement, energy and optimism that we felt during those first few moments of 2020 is still up in the air. But, here’s a good place to start… and here’s what we’ll be wearing while we work it out.

Enjoy the issue,

@jessicalbailey_

THIS LETTER Was first published in the eighth edition of GRAZIA International. Purchase your copy here.

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