Posted on April 20, 2017

Beauty’s Beauty: British Vogue’s First-Ever Male Editor Champions Diversity

Victoria Moss, Times Live, April 20, 2017

At the beginning of this month Edward Enninful was named as the new editor in chief of British Vogue magazine. At first glance the appointment seems radical. And it is.

Edward Enninful

Edward Enninful (Credit Image: © Rex Shutterstock via ZUMA Press)

As the first man to edit the magazine in its 100-year history, it’s a progressive appointment from a publisher, Condé Nast, not generally known for its cutting-edge nominations. The previous editor, Alexandra Shulman, announced her “Vrexit” in January, after a 25-year tenure.

And yet, Enninful – a 45-year-old Ghanaian-born, London-raised stylist – ticks some impressive establishment boxes. In 2014 he was awarded the prestigious Isabella Blow Fashion Creator award at the British Fashion Awards.

Last year he was appointed an OBE for services to diversity in fashion. Naomi Campbell – who, along with Kate Moss, he’s been best friends with since they were teenagers – accompanied him to Buckingham Palace to collect his honour.

At the after-party the cream of the fashion industry turned up to celebrate with him – including Moss, Madonna and model Erin O’Connor. He’s a serious, respected player at the epicentre of the fashion world, and counts Donatella Versace, Marc Jacobs, Iman and Rihanna among his friends.

When Shulman took up the reins in 1992, she came with a journalistic background and a sharp eye for features. Enninful comes from across the magazine divide, with a styling rather than writing background. His rise through the industry, however, has been remarkable.

Born in Ghana, he moved to London with his parents when he was a child. His mother was a seamstress, yet he had little knowledge of the fashion world until he was lightning-bolted into it at the age of 16. On the Tube one day he was scouted by stylist Simon Foxton, who worked for cult magazines i-D and Arena.

Within a short time he landed his first shoot working for photographer Nick Knight. He then began working for Foxton and soon after a job at i-D followed. At 18 he was appointed fashion director at the title, a position he retained for 20 years.

The magazine at that point was enjoying its core role at the centre of the progressive 1990s fashion about-turn, moving away from the generic, glossy imagery of the 1980s into something altogether more raw and real.

Enninful and Shulman are both outspoken about the industry’s failings. Shulman has been particularly vocal on the size of models; while Enninful challenges the visual status quo. He was instrumental in Italian Vogue’s 2008 black issue, styling Naomi Campbell for the cover. He’s outspoken about tackling the industry’s attitude to diversity.

“I acknowledge the fact that I’ve been luckier than most, being spotted at 16, a black kid from Ladbroke Grove, not wealthy, from that class. But we need more diversity, from schools to internships to mentorships. It’s very easy to say, oh, there’s one black model in a show and one black or Asian model in an advertising photograph, so we’ve filled the quota. No, it should be a continuous conversation. It shouldn’t even be an issue as far as I’m concerned. Beauty’s beauty.”

The new editor will bring an exciting, attention-grabbing perspective to the hundred-year-old magazine when he starts in August. He has the charm and the command of the industry to bring in a roster of impressive collaborators and faces. If alongside this he can bring a shift in the industry’s narrow attitude towards women then all the better.