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Will Edward Enninful’s Editorship Ensure Vogue’s Future at the Helm of British Fashion?

From reluctant model and ‘British street stylist’ to ‘proper stylist’ (his words) and champion of diversity in fashion, Edward Enninful OBE is a fashion force to be reckoned with.  But can this creative-turned-editor-in-chief of British Vogue save the fashion bible from digitally-induced obsolescence? 

Photo credit: Mike Trow

Photo credit: Mike Trow

Stop press: there's a fox in the henhouse!

He’s a man.  He’s black. He’s a creative, not a journalist. 
Since his announcement as Alexandra Shulman’s successor at Vogue, Enninful has had everything but the spiked Louboutin heel thrown at him, and his appointment doesn’t even start until August.  
In these uncertain times for journalists, when all the world’s a critic and anyone with a keyboard, an internet connection and an opinion can become a ‘published’ writer, I can understand why Enninful’s appointment might make the fashion media feel uneasy.  But he has more than paid his dues. 
He may not have followed a traditional path to the pinnacle of the British fashion press, but he knows the industry from many an angle, and at the time of his announcement as editor, he had six times as many Instagram followers as the departing Shulman. And therein lies the rub.  

Any observer of digital trends, or even the average social media user, can tell you that everything is becoming more visual.  From the emoji explosion to the surprising success of self-destructing Snapchat images, it’s clear: people like pictures.  They elicit in us an innate emotional response and drive a level of engagement, on social media in particular, that words just don’t.  So from that point of view, Enninful’s background as a multi award-winning stylist will surely help propel the magazine into this visual age and, almost certainly, blur the lines between the magazine’s print and digital editions.

Happy place: me and my Vogue!

Happy place: me and my Vogue!

But he’s a man!

Yes, he is a man.  And the first in the publication’s 100 year history to ever be appointed editor.  But so what?  Yes, we should all be feminists, but in my view that doesn’t mean positive discrimination at the expense of the best person for the job.  One of the most frequent and justified criticisms levelled at the industry is its perpetuation of exclusivity in fashion.  Whether in terms of race, size, gender or disability, it’s no secret, fashion could do a whole lot more to embrace diversity.

Which brings me neatly on to the final supposed issue – he’s black.  As I write, I can hardly believe that this is still an issue worth discussion.  Again, not proposing a quota system here, but seriously!  How can a person’s skin colour have any impact on their ability to edit?  Or to model clothes?  Or design them for that matter?  

Photo credit: Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia, July 2008

Photo credit: Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia, July 2008

In fact, if anyone is qualified to break down the diversity diffidence that has dogged the fashion industry, it’s Edward Enninful.  40,000 extra copies of the “Black Issue” of Italian Vogue were printed, such was the runaway success of his brainchild, featuring only black models in July 2008.  Similarly, in 2011, Enninful styled an exclusively plus sized model cover story entitled “Belle Vere”.  Turning his editorial excellence to W magazine later that year, when the magazine was struggling against brutal competition in a recessionary climate, Enninful presided over a 16.7% increase in ad pages – the largest year-on-year rise for a fashion title.  So rather unsurprisingly, diversity is not only right, it’s good for business!

Crowning these achievements, Edward Enninful was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to diversity in the fashion industry, in the 2016 Birthday Honours list.

On announcing Enninful as the new editor-in-chief of British Vogue on 10 April 2017, Condé Nast International chairman and chief executive Jonathan Newhouse deemed him "an influential figure in the communities of fashion, Hollywood and music which shape the cultural zeitgeist".  Here’s hoping that zeitgeist continues to drive inclusivity and reflect the beauty of the many, not the few. 

Good luck, Edward!  This fashion-lover and life-long Vogue reader is counting on you.