For an object with the practical purpose of keeping one’s retinas from scorching at high noon, sunglasses contain shades of meaning. They allow one to see without being seen. They obscure identity — while triggering the instinct to sniff out who, exactly, is behind those oversized square frames. But perhaps their most evocative interpretation is as an instrument of forward-looking, through which one might be able to see beyond the present into a blindingly bright future.
With this reading as our guide, we brought Gucci’s latest eyewear collection and New York City’s dreamers and doers together in an off-the-cuff collision of style, serendipity, and storytelling. Our methodology: Over the course of two summer days, we scouted some of the city’s highest-traffic areas for unique characters from all over the world, asking them about their hopes and plans for the future. Then, we put together a yearbook of sorts to create a very human snapshot of optimism and doubt, altruism, and self-interest — all in this place, in this exact moment in time. Ahead, meet the class of 2019.
Whether through art, political causes, or their very essences as people from diverse backgrounds, the members of this group direct their energy outward. "As an American-Muslim single mom [born to] military parents, my place in the world is to remind everyone that...no one should be stereotyped," says Fatima Shabbir, 46. "Be kind and open, and you'll be surprised who you'll find right next to you — and how alike you are."
On that day, Shabbir could very well have crossed paths with 18-year-old students Cole Canzano and Alyson Rubin, fast friends who met hours earlier at school orientation; as aspiring auteurs, they both say their callings are to explore the human condition through cinema. Or it could have been Margaret Nattinger, 81, who says her earthly role is "one of gratitude, as the greatest of human virtues." No matter their age, these strangers suggest that, even in these times, there are still those who can look outside the self.
Sometimes, you only have the vague outline of a notion of how you want to spend your life. But not having an exact destination locked into your internal GPS doesn't mean you're directionless. For example, Lesly Madrigal, 23, says she's content, for now, to be a "weird, dark creative." Others say they were drawn to New York by the sense that the city could offer them more than their hometowns, as far-flung as Ukraine or the American South.
These are not necessarily members of another lost generation, but one that's inching towards clarity. And in this town, even if you're blindly fumbling along, there's no better place to find your way.
For these individuals, what's to come is decidedly rose-colored. Some anticipate continued, unbridled joy, like 64-year-old Marcela Salazar, who says she already "has fun every day." Meanwhile, 21-year-old Enga Domingue says she "clearly sees" a new age with "women, people of color, and artists" leading the culture. In the end, they hope for the same things we all do: to be free, healthy, successful, understood, and loved.
But perhaps those with the clearest vision view life from a higher plane — 64-year-old Elaine Singer, when asked what her future looks like through tinted Gucci lenses, responds with the wisdom of the far-sighted. Her answer? "Forever."