Ghanaian born and London bred, Edward Enninful has been confirmed as the new editor of British Vogue, beating Vogue’s deputy editor Emily Sheffield and the Financial Times’ Jo Ellison to the punch. It’s clear that Condé Nast is ready to shake things up.
“Edward is an exceptionally talented stylist who will no doubt bring an exciting new creative aesthetic to the magazine,” said Alexandra Shulman, British Vogue’s current editor. “Every Vogue editor arrives with their own range of talents and experience and Edward is very known, respected and liked within the fashion industry. I look forward to finding out his plans as soon as possible and working with him over the next few months of transition so that British Vogue continues to be the leading magazine in this market.”
In terms of diversity alone, Enninful’s appointment is a “surprise” that’s most welcome. Indeed, on many levels, he will certainly strike a fresh contrast to the predominantly white middle-class women who work at the magazine today and appeared in Richard Macer’s BBC2 documentary last year.
But demographics aside, what does Enninful’s appointment mean for the future of British Vogue? There is the fact that Enninful is a stylist and that he has been hired from W magazine, where he was creative and fashion director. (He has also contributed to the Italian and American editions of Vogue, but not the British edition). There’s also the fact that Enninful’s aesthetic is, by and large, glossy and provocative. Think: Linda Evangelista on the surgeon’s table, Rihanna as a post-apocalyptic Josephine Baker and Barbra Streisand as a racy Marlene Dietrich. A stark contrast from Shulman’s journo career and background.
Edward Enninful is also extremely active on social media and has cultivated close friendships with some of the supermodels and stars he regularly styles in editorials, such as Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Gigi Hadid. In his attitude towards celebrity and social media, Enninful is something of a bridge between the traditional fashion establishment and the next generation; he was the youngest ever fashion director (at i-D) at the age of 18 and the recipient of the Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator at the British fashion Awards in 2014, as well as being appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to diversity in the fashion industry. Even to the general public, he is recognisable, having appeared in “The September Issue,” R.J. Cutler’s intimate portrait of the inner workings of American Vogue. His predecessor Alexandra Shulman, by comparison, has avoided the spotlight.
Under Shulman, Vogue’s tone was also defined by the fashionable West London neighbourhoods that are the homeland of British Vogue — the Notting Hill set and Portobello trawlers, Mayfair nightclubbing and Knightsbridge boutiques; second-home country houses and holidays in Mustique. However, as London itself changed and expanded so did the magazine’s outlook, turning further afield — to East and South London, for example — and one can only imagine that it will continue to do so under Enninful’s lead, reflecting more of the city’s cultural diversity.
Enninful is also an editor who has a rare combination of experience at independent style magazines such as i-D as well as American glossies such as W and Vogue. His closest collaborators are long-time members of the Vogue firmament, including Mario Testino, Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Pat McGrath, Craig McDean and Tim Walker, as well as Steven Meisel, whose work has not been seen in British Vogue since the 1990s, and Steven Klein, whose work has never appeared in the British edition. That will likely change soon.
In his new role, Edward Enninful will be guiding a large team, including veteran editors such as Lucinda Chambers, Kate Phelan, and Joe McKenna, and departments he would likely never have had experience in leading — features, beauty and advertising, for example. It remains to be seen how involved he will be in with those sections of the magazine.
We look forward to Enninful’s new position which will begin in August this year, in time for the years most noted month; the September issue, and no doubt will revitalise the Vogue brand for a new generation of readers — and followers.