In a recent interview I read with Gina Lollobrigida, who auctioned her Bulgari jewels to benefit stem-cell research, she stated that the quality she most liked in a woman was “the ability to live life without compromises.” I’ve never given much thought to Lollobrigida, beyond the usual appreciation for the style chops of a sultry Italian cinema star, or worried about what she might think of me. But this phrase stuck in my head and repeated itself until I was practically driven mad.
What, what did she mean? How in god’s name could anyone live a life without compromise? I thought of all the ways I’d bartered away my true self. For instance, I’ve only, ever, wanted to own an old-lady house full of original details, original rooms intact, yet of the three houses I’ve bought in my life not one has been a proper old-lady house, not one. And I’ve had chances. (I wasn’t supposed to talk about this anymore …) And I’m not even going to get into the times I’ve wanted to do things that would hurt people I love but stopped myself, sacrificing what seemed to me, at the time at least, true fulfillment. (Also, Ms. Lollobrigida: What is the difference between a compromise and a sacrifice?) It was infuriating that she’d dropped this life-crisis bomb with no explanation. Was it a Zen koan? In fact, the plausibility of anyone having the quality she most admires dissolves under closer scrutiny: Don’t we compromise the minute we’re forced, against our wishes, to breathe air on our own?
By coming to terms with the fact that my whole life was a compromise, I was able to claw my way back to sanity and realize there are some things I haven’t compromised on. For instance, Michèle Champagne. She’s the woman who rede- signed FLARE (there’s a picture of her on our contributors page, page 41). Those of you who are reading this magazine for the first time won’t notice that it looks different, you’ll just love it (right?!). But regular readers (Hi!) can see that it’s drastically, gorgeously, thrillingly different.
When I first met Michèle, she was sustaining herself, after spending several years in Amsterdam, with interesting contract gigs and making her own magazine about graphic design. I instantly knew she had the true vision of an artist. A fashion magazine needs that—the Alexander Libermans, the Fabien Barons—or it’s not special.
So we needed her. I hired her to consult, and then slowly hinted at, cajoled and finally begged her to take on the design director job. She and her team worked around the clock to finalize every aspect of the page layouts, including our customized calligraphy by Olivia Grandperrin. (I must also give a shout-out to our wonderful intern Michael Li Preti, who designed the Editor’s Picks, page 64, among other pages, and kept us fashion-energized in floral American Apparel T-shirts—get one!) And although she and I both made com- promises here and there, mostly I got out of Michèle’s way. There’s such a magic in watching someone do something that you couldn’t do yourself—it opens up life’s possibilities. Her approach to my grappling with this conundrum of compromise was instructive. When you trust yourself enough to know that you’re not going to compromise on the things that matter, you can afford to be more flexible for others, to be generous.
This issue is a celebration of uncompromising (including all the nuances of that idea GL didn’t explain!) vision, starting with our cover subject Amber Heard’s insistence on driving her own Mustang instead of getting chauffeured, page 196, and including Emily Ramshaw’s exclusive with daring Christopher Kane, page 188, Sheila Heti’s interview with evertrue Margaret Atwood, page 184, and stylist Rita Liefhebber and photographer Andrew Soule’s rainy shoot at Fort Edmonton Park’s kitsch main street, page 204, which paints a beautifully Canadian version of the mid-century silhouette dominating fall.
We made our September issue to please, delight and inspire the part of you that you never compromise.