The vacancy has been filled. The CEO and Chairman of Condé Nast International has confirmed the appointment of Edward Enninful as the new Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue. Enninful will succeed matriarch, Alexandra Shulman. She is the longest serving Head of the publication after 25 years. An unexpected pick, but endlessly exciting.
The rumour mill has been abuzz for the past 3 months on who would be next to take the throne. The fashion community have been hedging their bets, notably either on Katie Grand, the founder of LOVE magazine, Dame Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-A-Porter and outgoing Chairwoman of the British Fashion Council, or Emily Sheffield, the Deputy Editor of Vogue, who is also the Associate Digital Director and sister-in-law of former Prime Minister, David Cameron. But in an unforeseen and unprecedented move that breaks a white and debatably reverse-gendered ceiling, the first ever male and person-of-colour is preparing to take the helm.
Edward Enninful was born in Ghana but grew up in Ladbroke Grove in West London. He emigrated together with 5 siblings, Dad, an army officer, and Mum, a seamstress, as a young child. At 16, he first stepped into the fashion sphere working as a model after being scouted by stylist, Simon Foxton, on a train. Soon after he became an assistant at i-D magazine while juggling a degree at Goldsmiths University, at 18 became Fashion Editor and at 19, Fashion Director. Still a teenager, Edward Enninful had become the youngest Director in the history of a major fashion publication.
Since then, his imagery has appeared at the forefront of numerous ad campaigns for luxury designer brands. Among them count Dior, Armani, Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Mulberry, Hugo Boss, Fendi, Valentino, Missoni and Gucci. In 2014, he received the Isabella Blow Award for Best Fashion Creator at the British Fashion Awards. And in 2016, Enninful was recognised by the British monarchy, collecting an OBE for his services to promote diversity within the fashion industry.
For example, he recently published ‘I am an immigrant’ on wmagazine.com, where Enninful currently serves as Fashion and Creative Director. As reviewed here, the video was an upbeat fashion response to an otherwise demoralising present state of political affairs. He also styled Belle Vere, an editorial for Italian Vogue which used plus-sized models only. However, it was the arrival of Italian Vogue’s Black Issue on newsstands that showcased the pioneer at his best. Produced in collaboration with the late, former Editor-in-Chief, Franca Sozzani, and world-renowned photographer, Steven Meisel, the Black Issue exclusively featured black models such as Naomi Campbell, Alex Wek, Jourdan Dunn, Chanel Iman, and stories of women in arts and entertainment of Afro-Caribbean descent.
The public reception was astounding. Despite the initial skepticism of the fashion ecosystem, the Black Issue broke publication records. It became the highest-selling edition of Italian Vogue, sold out in the UK and was reprinted to allow those pipped to the post another chance to purchase a copy. It demonstrated indisputable, numerical evidence of the beauty and commerciality of models of colour, challenging casting agents to reconsider the white-is-always-right approach.
In addition to Enninful’s monumental efforts towards the diversity agenda, with his roots in styling, he is predicted to soon take British Vogue on a more visual, image-led path than his predecessor, Shulman, a writer at heart.
Enninful will assume his position as Chief Editor of Vogue on August 1st 2017 and I feel exhilarated by the prospect of the magazine embracing an edgier, modern and multicultural perspective, overdue but on the horizon at last.