Ever since Alexandra Shulman, the longstanding editor-in-chief of British Vogue, announced her resignation in January of this year, the fashion and media industries have been abuzz with one question: who could follow in Shulman’s footsteps? A woman who steered British Vogue through 25 dynamic years, radical technological advances, the rise of the internet and social media, and the ‘Age of the Blogger’? One thing was clear; whoever was chosen had a tough act to follow.
The speculation is over. As of Monday 10th April, Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and chief executive of Condé Nast International, announced that Edward Enninful would be replacing Shulman at the helm of British Vogue. This is a huge deal. Enninful will not only be the very first male editor-in-chief, he is also the first Black editor-in-chief in Vogue industry.
Born in Ghana, Enninful moved to London at a young age. His first foray into the world of fashion was as a model – he was spotted aged 16 on the train by non-other than Simon Foxton, one of Britain’s leading stylists, before being stopped again by a model scout a couple of weeks later.
After what Enninful described as his “baptism into fashion” (modelling) and aged 17 he was introduced to i-D magazine founders Trish and Terry Jones and began assisting i-D’s Fashion Director Beth Summers. Soon after his 18th birthday in 1990 Summers left i-D and Terry Jones offered Enninful the job making him the youngest ever fashion director for an international publication.
Enninful has since become known for his street-inspired, edgy and yet glamorous style: “We British have to customize our clothes, we have to be more creative, informing who you are –and I am still obsessed with the streets,” he told The Telegraph in 2009.
After 8 years at i-D Enninful became a contributing editor at Italian Vogue where he proved himself a radical in fashion. He had a key role in one of the publication’s most iconic issues: it’s 2008 ‘Black Issue’ which only featured Black models such as Naomi Campbell and Jourdan Dunn, and styled the June 2011 cover ‘Belle Vere’ which exclusively used so-called ‘plus sized models’*. In the 2016 Birthday Honours Enninful was awarded an OBE from the Queen for his dedication to diversity in British fashion. His date for the event? Long-time muse and friend Naomi Campbell.
In 2006 Enninful also became a contributing editor at American Vogue but his breakout role came in 2011 when it was announced that he would be taking the role of fashion and style-director of W Magazine. Under Enninful W has had some memorable covers: Kate Moss as a nun anyone (March 2012)? Nicki Minaj as a 18th century French courtesan (November 2011)? Or Rihanna as a futuristic space queen (September 2016)?
Now Enninful is to turn his talents to British Vogue, a pillar stone of both the British and international fashion industries. With him comes a fresh and exciting talent, dedication to promoting and celebrating diversity in fashion, and a younger eye. I for one am excited to see what Enninful’s historic role as editor-in-chief of British Vogue will bring.
Shulman officially steps down from the position in June. Enninful’s first day will be August 1.
* Here at Debut we believe everybody and every body is beautiful and that so-called ‘plus sized models’ should just be referred to as what they really are: super models in their own right.
Words: Esther Newman