It’s here. Edward Enninful’s first issue of British Vogue. With model Adwoa Aboah covering his debut, the significance of this fashion moment cannot be underestimated.
Enough articles have labored the point that Enninful is not only the first male to take the helm at the 101-year-old magazine, but also the first Black, gay man. As a Ghanaian-born immigrant joining a publication that has notoriously been staffed by white, upper-middle class women, his appointment back in April was nothing short of revolutionary. And by choosing a Black woman — and one of the most popular faces in fashion — for his first cover, Enninful boldly affirms his mission to make British Vogue a diverse and inclusive style title, something it’s struggled with in the past. (In August, a staff photo of the team under former editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman revealed not one non-white face, and for 12 years of her reign, a Black model never received a solo cover).
Styled by Enninful and photographed by Steven Meisel, Adwoa wears look 36 from Marc Jacobs’ spring 2018 collection (a surprising choice considering the issue “is dedicated to Great Britain and the creatives who represent it at home and abroad,” Enninful wrote on Instagram). In July, Aboah was announced as a contributing editor of the title alongside Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Steve McQueen, and Grace Coddington. Pat McGrath joined as a beauty editor at large, Venetia Scott replaced Lucinda Chambers as fashion director and numerous big appointments were announced in the editorial team; and so a new era of British Vogue began.
Last week, Aboah shared a teaser video announcing the imminent arrival of Enninful’s first issue which led fans to speculate that she would be on the cover. In a longer teaser video posted by British Vogue over the weekend, the world was given a first look inside the milestone issue, which features interviews with the biggest British designers including Jonathan Anderson, John Galliano, Victoria Beckham, and Christopher Bailey, as well as stories with Cara Delevingne, Millie Bobby Brown, Edie Campbell, and Mia Goth, among others.
In a recent article for Business of Fashion, former Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman postulated on what makes a great magazine editor and appeared to make numerous swipes at her successor, criticizing Enninful for his celebrity circle and his decision to cull a significant proportion of the team she built.
“More than ever, [editors] need to employ and retain people who are really committed to the job,” she wrote. “It has been interesting and educative to see over the years which of the more dilettante or famous contributors really put some effort into their contributions and which liked the idea of an association to the magazine without the tedious business of actually doing any work… The new editors also have to have a vision of how the many parts combine to make a robust whole. It’s certainly not a job for someone who doesn’t wish to put in the hours and thinks that the main part of their job is being photographed in a series of designer clothes with a roster of famous friends.”
Yes, Enninful may have a roster of famous friends but, he is also one of the most lauded stylists in the industry, with an extraordinary vision and dedication to diversity. His appointment is deserved not only for the pioneering and elevated stories he will bring to the magazine and his tireless mission to create imagery that is at once aspirational and representative, but also for the host of talented writers he has hired to ensure the articles are on par with the visuals. The fact that his celebrity circle and contacts list is unrivaled (he counts Rihanna, Michelle Obama, and Nicole Kidman as friends) will only help bolster the magazine’s A-list cover star credentials and the calibre of talent inside the magazine each month. Plus, a newly-appointed editor shouldn’t be condemned for wanting to hire a new team or for recognizing the relevance and influence of celebrity in 2017. In an interview with The Guardian last weekend, Naomi Campbell shared a similar sentiment: “Let the work speak for itself,” she said. “[Enninful] has worked in this business for many years, that’s why he got the job, fair and square. And to see all this stuff come out is appalling. England should be ashamed. Support your own. And be happy that there’s going to be a new generation, a new Vogue. I’ve been appalled.”
No doubt there is a great deal of pressure on Enninful to succeed not just as a stylist-turned-editor-in-chief, but also in capturing and engaging a loyal, new audience at a time when interest in print editions is waning. Following the downsizing of Glamour UK last month, the announcement that Teen Vogue is folding its print issue, and the reality that many more jobs are still to be cut at Condé Nast as a number of other titles reduce the frequency with which they are published, Enninful is tasked with retaining and growing Vogue ‘s readership — a not so simple feat. But with high expectations and an arduous task ahead of him, Enninful, who has an abundance of talent, a wealth of contacts, and, most importantly, a modern vision for the magazine, may be just the person to take it all on.
The December issue of British Vogue hits newsstands November 10.
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