Edward Enninful was named as the first ever black and male editor of British Vogue yesterday.
Known for his diverse approach to practically everything, Enninful’s appointment has been seen as a rather radical one for the historical magazine.
In 2008, he pioneered Vogue Italia‘s infamous ‘Black Issue’ which featured only black models. Enninful hoped it would end the “white-out that dominates the catwalk and magazines.” The issue was in fact so successful that an extra 40,000 copies had to be printed.
Last year, he was awarded an OBE for services to diversity in the fashion industry. His predecessor Alexandra Shulman received the same accolade in 2004.
Just like Shulman, Enninful is extremely outspoken when it comes to the fashion industry’s many shortcomings. But where Shulman fought for body diversity, Enninful pushes for racial equality.
Born in Ghana, he uses his prominent position and powerful friends (which include Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and every It girl on the planet) to speak up for models of colour.
“I acknowledge the fact that I’ve been luckier than most, being spotted at 16, a black kid from Ladbroke Grove, not wealthy, from that class,” he told The Telegraph in 2016. “But we need more diversity, from schools to internships to mentorships. That’s what I try to do.”
“It’s very easy to say, oh, there’s one black model in a show and one black or Asian model in an advertising photograph, so we’ve filled the quota. No, it should be a continuous conversation. It shouldn’t even be an issue as far as I’m concerned. Beauty’s beauty.”
The 45-year-old is expected to majorly shake things up. Leaving his position at W Magazine, he will become one of the only black figures at the top of the fashion industry. Most major designers and their chief executives are white as are the majority of fashion magazine staff.
“He’s fearless,” Anna Wintour told The New York Times. “At a time when values are being challenged, Edward always stands up for what he believes in.”
It’s a particularly bright future for British Vogue who has been heavily criticised for taking 12 years to feature another black model on the cover after Naomi Campbell’s solo 2004 appearance.
Diversity on magazine covers is improving but only just. Fashionista reported a 15.5% increase in the number of models of colour starring on covers from 2015 to 2016.
In 2016, British Vogue‘s only non-white cover star was Rihanna. It was a similar story in 2015 when model Jourdan Dunn became the first model of colour to appear since 2013.
Catwalk diversity isn’t much better. Again, marginal improvements are being seeing with New York showing the most diverse runways. For the AW17 season, only 27.9% of models across all four fashion capitals were of colour.
Considering the diverse nature of our world and streets, that’s still nowhere near good enough. It seems it’ll be up to people like Edward Enninful to rock the boat.
Bring on 1 August.
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