How Edward Enninful’s Appointment As Editor Of British Vogue Will Change The Fashion Industry

Vogue's first black Editor in Chief, Enninful has a dedication to diversity and is social media savvy. In twenty years’ time, we will cite his appointment as an important shift in the fashion industry’s paradigm.

Edward Enninful's Appointment As Editor Of British Vogue

by Lynette Nylander |
Published on

The whispers of who would take the helm at Vogue and, with it the most prestigious job in British fashion, had been a topic of conversation and contention since its outgoing Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Shulman announced her departure in late January. The rumour mill churned with the names of all the obvious contenders: would it be Katie Grand? Conde Nast’s enfant terrible of sorts, whose unconventional covers, notoriety amongst celebrities and luxury brands, her independent publishing background and success of her publication LOVE, (where she has managed to put everyone from Beth Ditto, Miley Cyrus and Kendall Jenner on the cover), made her a perfect candidate to move across to the top spot at Vogue House. Could longtime Deputy Editor Emily Sheffield take the step up? Or would former Vogue Features Editor and current FT Fashion Editor Jo Ellison (rumoured to be well-liked by Ms Shulman), be the left-field candidate the Editorship needed. While all solid choices, none were particularly unexpected; they all fit the mould of what you would expect someone ascending that position to be. Female, white, well-dressed and well-respected.

So, when Edward Enninful, W’s Fashion and Creative Director was announced to be Shulman’s successor, who departs after twenty-five years, the choice drew a collective celebration from across the industry and beyond. While Enninful is widely respected and a rumoured candidate from the beginning, few thought it would actually happen. In part, perhaps, because in its 101-years British Vogue has never had a man at its helm and Ghanian-born, London-raised Edward is one of the few black editors of a major publication and the first black editor of Vogue ever. His appointment has been marked by Anna Wintour as 'a brilliant choice', and Conde Nast Chairman Jonathan Newhouse described Edward yesterday as 'an influential figure in the communities of fashion, Hollywood and music which shape the cultural zeitgeist.' This is apt as Edward has made the cultural zeitgeist his ammunition and point of difference amongst a stream of cookie-cutter editors; never shying away from political, racial and cultural issues in his styling, he constantly does away with hierarchical ballasts and traditional notions of blue-chip styling. His work is brash, bold and at times in your face. It’s a decided decision by Conde Nast to go left when in the magazine world everyone is seemingly turning safely to the right.

But Edward Enninful’s appointment at Editor-in-Chief of one of the most esteemed edition of Vogue is about much more than a job and a title. It is not an exaggeration to read his appointment as hardened proof that the industry is indeed changing for the better, that the establishment is listening to the public’s demand that diversity needs to disseminate from the top down in the fashion industry because without it there is no moving forward. His appointment sends the message to creatives, especially those of colour that sometimes the establishment chooses the ‘underdog’ or the ‘surprise’, giving us hope that, one day, the appointment of a person of colour to a position like this will be the norm, no longer unusual.

More than this, Edward’s success hasn’t come by chance. The Fashion Director of i-D at just 18, Edward was something of a prodigy. He’s best buddies with Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, rubs shoulders with Rihanna and has long been a front row fixture across international fashion weeks. He has crafted the most cover images for W in his time as their Fashion and Creative Director. He calls Tiffany, Lanvin, Carolina Herrera his current commercial clients and still finds time be the industry’s champion for diverse models and racial inclusion across the board, a stance that so few people in his position have been openly willing to take.

In particular, it’ll be interesting to see how he transfers this dedication to diversity to British Vogue, which has come under fire in the past for not doing enough to push models of colour. He was one of the masterminds behind Vogue Italia’s now iconic Black Issue and during his time at i-D and W was instrumental in the success of black models such as Jourdan Dunn, Lineisy Monteiro and Chanel Iman, so you can expect a wider pool of cover models during his tenure. And unlike many of his fellow editors, he is a behemoth on social media, using his 500k+ Instagram platform for everything from showcasing editorial shoots to clickable #TBT’s to glimpses to his personal life; he’s the perfect bridge between having the history of working with the pillars of the fashion industry as well as being contemporary enough to know how best engage with a digitally minded audience.

Maybe it’s because his upbringing is more steeped in reality than his predecessors, not born into huge wealth, prestigious political families or publishing dynasties. Edward is the son of immigrants, grew up in Ghana and was raised in a multicultural Ladbroke Grove and his formative years were spent with stylist Simon Foxton and Terry and Trish Jones at i-D, becoming friends with fellow fashion luminaries Craig McDean, Nick Knight and Steven Klein who would go on to define fashion in the 90s. He has a relatability that in the upper echelons of fashion is hard to find. While the magazine is imbued with fantastical luxury on every page, it is safe to say the majority of its readers buy British Vogue for aspiration more than inspiration, and so Edward’s styling work - you can easily find a bomber jacket and trainers mixed in with a couture dress- will likely resonant with a new generation of readers hungry for the publication to shake things up. And, if the social stats from posts about his appointment are anything to go by, the fashion industry and fans are eager to see what Edward’s fresh eyes will do with the century-old publication. British Vogue remained a trending tag on Twitter for most of the day following the announcement, and his appointment saw everyone from Rihanna, Bella Hadid to his close friend and collaborator Pat McGrath pay homage to the stylist and newly appointed EIC.

When we look at the fashion landscape in twenty years’ time, we will cite Edward's appointment as an important shift in the industry’s paradigm. He is, historically, a risk taker and aesthetically we may well see this reflected in British Vogue’s at-times conservative pages. While Ms Shulman’s stylistic messages to women have leant towards practicality in the past, most likely rooted in her own personal preferences, Edward, as a man, will approach the magazine with a completely different aesthetic and message for its mostly female readers. He’s a modern editor, for modern times.

Fashion is calling out for a more global and inclusive viewpoint as well as the blurring of gender roles, so hiring a man who has been awarded an OBE for his services to diversity of the fashion industry as well as an Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator sends an unyielding message that the industry really does have the capacity to change. Edward Enninful’s appointment will, also, undoubtedly pave the way for the fellow Edward’s of the future; they will grow up looking at the pages of British Vogue knowing that neither race, class nor gender should stop you ascending to the very highest position in fashion. Edward himself put it best, 'I believe we live in a world of possibility, and my appointment is a testament to this.'

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Follow Lynette on Twitter @lynettesaid

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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