When Edward Enninful shook up British Vogue
Having now been at the helm of British Vogue for just over a year, editor-in-chief Edward Enninful OBE, has shook up the sometimes dusty world of a magazine publication with his rich imagination and bold stance on social affairs. Upending his predecessor Alexandra Shulman’s more traditional style, Enninful’s work exudes authenticity, making inclusivity appear both effortless and full of glamour.
However, what exactly has the first black and male British Vogue editor changed and what is the real Edward Enninful story?
Edward Enninful joined Vogue in 2017 from New York’s W magazine following Shulman’s resignation after 25 years as the publication’s leader. During a parting interview with the Evening Standard, Shulman went on record to say “I don’t know Edward and I don’t know what he’s going to do, but I can safely assume that he will want to do something very different. I do think he’s a really brilliant stylist.”
This very statement seemed to perfectly encapsulate the enigma that is Enninful, creatively loud but also mild mannered, well known for his work but simultaneously shrouded in personal mystery.
The meteoric rise of the Ghanaian-born editor to the top of the fashion world started at the age of 16 when stylist Simon Foxton spotted him on the London Underground in the late-Eighties. Speaking of that first meeting, Foxton said “He was a very good-looking young man. The story has become quite apocryphal. I stopped him on the Tube as I was a scout for non-agency models.”
Enninful later recalls being quite unnerved at the time due to the man’s excessive staring but thus began his first move into a long and illustrious career that would go from strength to strength.
After partaking in a number of photoshoots for i-D magazine, he became Foxton’s assistant before being introduce to the magazine’s founder Terry Jones who would later appoint the young model as the publication’s youngest ever fashion editor at just 18.
Later in 1998, he moved to Italian Vogue, then American Vogue before eventually settling as fashion and style director at W magazine.
Despite mixing with a host of A-listers and attending numerous glamorous parties, Enninful has never been flamboyant, instead remaining modest but incredibly personable. Neighbour and friend Frances Owen once stated “He is the most charming and warm person you could imagine. He is so friendly and open.”
Now, after a year as editor-in-chief, Enninful’s impact so far can be reflected upon in full force. Over the last 18 months, Enninful has made Vogue a modern platform for diversity via his choice of cover stars and the causes that the magazine has backed.
In May this year, Enninful’s editor’s letter for the issue was an inspiring and important response to the climate of the fashion industry in the last year. He wrote not simply of beauty – something we all assume models to possess – but of a magical and undefinable asset that each of the nine women on the May cover held.
Furthermore, he wrote that “the fashion industry [is] finally embracing a concept that has defined [his] entire working life: diversity.” A cover like this one speaks to its readers, and like the beauty Enninful talked of in his letter, proves that beauty is something everyone has.
The first issue featured Adwoa Aboah, a perfect choice as Aboah is a model from artsy beginnings who has battled issues such as substance abuse, before turning her life around and inspiring other women to do so via her influential platform.
Since this issue, covers have included Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Naomi Campbell to name but a few, truly showing how seriously the new Vogue takes diverse representation.
There have also been internal shake ups with rumours circulating that Enninful had set out to rid Vogue of all its posh girl staff and replace them with visionaries from a wide plethora of backgrounds.
Although this has never been confirmed, the resignation of several long-standing members of Shulman’s Vogue appeared to illustrate this point.
Regardless, British Vogue readers are up by 1.3% despite an overall decline in published magazine sales. The fashion crowd appear to be loving the editor’s vision and there can be little doubt that Enninful still has a lot to say.