Cate Blanchett for W's issue number 5.

W magazine may be for sale, but there’s still an issue to promote, an issue featuring and guest edited by Cate Blanchett, no less, so Stefano Tonchi is going to work.

And he’s the only man to be putting in any work on Blanchett’s issue, W’s fifth (it’s all numbers, no months now) of the year, which was produced entirely by women and features only women. In addition to Blanchett, Katie Grand styles Adriana Lima as a garishly glamorous suburban housewife; Maria Grazia Chiuri talks Dior amid #MeToo; and Agnes Varda and Ava DuVernay make an appearance.

Tonchi, who’s still looking into possibly purchasing the magazine, is the first to bring up the idea that the new issue could be seen as an attempt to jump in on the renewed marketability of female power and feminism, but said the theme was almost scrapped because of that possibility. When Blanchett came on board, those bandwagoner concerns fell away.

“It was not a political statement — Cate had no interest in that,” Tonchi said. “It was really like an attempt to put on a play where every part is played by women. A little bit like Edwardian theater in reverse.”

And it turned out to be quite a learning experience. Tonchi said it was never so clear to him that there is what’s often referred to as a “pipeline problem” in photography, in particular, meaning there either aren’t enough women going for degrees and getting apprenticeships and work or staying in the field long enough to form careers, if they do.  

“The pool of talent, and I’m just stating facts, is smaller,” Tonchi said, noting he started off with a list of 50 women photographers. “When you talk about changing the art landscape and giving women more space, the numbers are not on your side.”

And it’s not just the numbers. Tonchi said he wanted Blanchett for this issue, not only because she’s beautiful and a talented and admired actress, but because he got the sense that she was being sidelined by mainstream fashion, with talk among colleagues that she is “too old, or too classy for covers.” So he asked Blanchett to collaborate, knowing she would want to be much more involved than just a photoshoot and stamping her name on the cover, and she agreed. And she certainly collaborated.

Tonchi said Blanchett came to his office and used his desk on a few occasions, she made a list of artists she wanted to work with for the issue, she wanted a chance to speak to Miuccia Prada, and only clothes from female designers. She made phone calls to many photographers, she handed out assignments. And she was photographed, repeatedly. For her shoot with Cass Bird, Blanchett fit it in between walking the red carpet at the New York premiere of “Ocean’s 8” and the post-screening dinner. She made it to 10 other photoshoots with as many photographers.

“She’s a genius in life, we all see the way she manages her career and her choices even on the red carpet, but how she manages her time, I mean… it’s inspiring,” Tonchi said.

As for Blanchett, she quotes Roland Barthes on the “two ways of the photograph” in her own letter in the magazine: “To subject its spectacle to the civilized code of perfect illusions, or to confront in it the wakening of intractable reality.” It’s the latter option on display in the new issue, by making a W (named for “women”) through the unapologetic use of only women.

“Every photograph presents us with the fork in the road,” Blanchett said, referring to Barthes, “but if we keep going down the same old path, we only ever get the same old answer.”

For More, See:

Everyone’s Selling, but Is Anyone Buying?

Interview Magazine Sold Back to Peter Brant

Meredith Said Negotiating for Brides Magazine

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