Who is Edward Enninful?

Nicole Rayment takes a look at British Vogue's new helmsman and the potential for change he brings with him

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

This April, upon British Vogue’s revelation of Alexandra Shulman’s successor for the highly extolled and sought after role of editor-in-chief, the internet and tabloids underwent a buoyant craze.

Having worked for British Vogue for over two and a half decades, the longest period of time anyone has ever served as its editor, the fashion world sat in angst awaiting the revelation of Shulman’s supersede: Edward Enninful OBE. For many, British Vogue’s choice for the new appointed editor-in-chief was unprecedented as he is the publication’s the first male and first black editor. So who is the fashion mastermind on everyone’s lips?

Born in 1972, the creative hails from Ghana but moved to London with his family when he was a young boy. The son of a seamstress, Edward Enninful’s first insight into fashion was furnished by his mother, whose patterns and uses of bold and bright colours he consciously absorbed. However, it wasn’t until the age of sixteen, when he was scouted on a train by stylist Simon Foxton, that Enninful became truly inspired by the exhilarating realm of fashion, which he highlighted in an interview for Telegraph Magazine in 2009 by describing his ephemeral modelling career as his “baptism into fashion”. During his teenage years, Enninful turned heads thanks to his distinctive style, described by many as ‘edgy elegance’, and is even known to have played a vital role in redefining street style during the grunge movement of the 1990s.

Between the ages of sixteen to eighteen, Enninful became wholeheartedly enthralled by the lively and bustling fashion industry, working both as a model and as an assistant stylist to Beth Summers, the editor of i-D magazine. This was the publication that was to appoint him as Fashion Director at the age of eighteen following Summers’ departure, a position cherished by Enninful for two decades. The fashion virtuoso’s experience within the industry ranges from being contributing director at Vogue Italia and American Vogue to being the fashion and creative director at W Magazine, as well as working as an advertising consultant for campaigns and runway shows featuring labels such as Christian Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Fendi and Gucci.

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One of Enninful’s biggest and most legendary projects constitutes the ‘Black Issue’ which he implemented for Vogue Italia, in which only black models, including the likes of Jourdan Dunn, Naomi Campbell and Alek Wek were featured. His aim was to overtly fight for diversity, describing the chief motive behind the project as striving to put a halt to the “white-out that dominates the catwalks and magazines”. The issue’s triumph was prodigious: to this day, Enninful’s ‘Black Issue’ boasts the record of Vogue Italia’s best selling edition: over 40,000 extra copies were printed by Condé Nast.

British Vogue has been in the recent spotlight following the recent polemic of Lucinda Chambers’ abrupt tell-all interview for the London-based critical fashion journal Vestoj. In the interview, Chambers nonchalantly discusses being fired by Edward Enninful after thirty-six years at the prestigious magazine, and lays bare her pessimistic standpoint towards the current state of the fashion industry. After the interview was published, a poignant sense of precariousness regarding the magazine’s future filled the minds of many devoted readers of British Vogue.

However, it appears that for the new editor-in-chief, innovation and nonpareil vision are what constitute the cornerstone of a successful fashion publication. In a 2014 interview for W Magazine, Enninful stated: “fashion to me is about self expression, it’s about creativity, you can say so much with fashion, it speaks about the time we live in: it really sums up a time.” To truly depict the importance of discussing the issues of the era which we inhabit through fashion, Enninful has brought along his own team of influencers who have hugely impacted the today’s popular culture. He has replaced former fashion director Lucinda Chambers with British stylist and photographer Venetia Scott, and enlisted supermodels Kate Moss (who has been a British Vogue contributor since 2013) and Naomi Campbell, as well as acclaimed British film director Steve McQueen, as contributing editors of the publication.

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Condé Nast international chairman and chief executive Jonathan Newhouse affirmed that Edward Enninful was “an influential figure in the communities of fashion, Hollywood, and music which shape the cultural zeitgeist” adding that “by virtue of his talent and experience, Edward is supremely prepared to assume the responsibility of British Vogue.”

With Edward Enninful’s plentiful experience in the industry, his idiosyncratic eye for style and the tremendous support and adulation that he has received over the past few decades, the new editor-in-chief will patently thrive at the helm of the fashion bible that is British Vogue.