British Vogue names first male editor in 100 years

Edward Enninful (with model Naomi Campbell) is the first man and the first black editor to take the helm of British Vogue.
Edward Enninful (with model Naomi Campbell) is the first man and the first black editor to take the helm of British Vogue.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (NYTimes) - Edward Enninful, the creative and fashion director of the American magazine W, is set to replace Alexandra Shulman as editor-in-chief of British Vogue, its parent company, Condé Nast, confirmed on Monday (April 10). The first man and the first black editor to take the helm of Britain's most powerful fashion publication in its 100-year history, he will begin his new role on Aug 1.

A top stylist and acclaimed fashion director who migrated to Britain from Ghana as a child, the 45-year-old is known for his cheerful demeanor, his legendary fashion covers and for having an army of loyal fans in and out of the fashion business. He received an Order of the British Empire in June for his services to diversity in the fashion industry.

Vanessa Friedman, the fashion director and chief fashion critic of The New York Times, tweeted: "Congratulations to @Edward_Enninful new editor of British Vogue! This is going to shake things up."

Supermodel Naomi Campbell, a close friend of Enninful's, wrote on Instagram: "Today history was made".

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

The appointment comes three months after Newhouse named another man, Emanuele Farneti, to the helm of Italian Vogue, following the death of Franca Sozzani.

Enninful was an unexpected choice. Here are four things to know before his arrival at British Vogue's headquarters in Hanover Square:

1. He began his fashion career as a model

Born in Ghana, Enninful was raised by his seamstress mother in the Ladbroke Grove area of London, alongside five siblings. At 16, he became a model for the British magazine i-D after being scouted while travelling on the Tube, London's subway system. He has called modelling his "baptism into fashion". By 17, he was assisting on photography shoots for the publication with the stylists Simon Foxton and Beth Summers. In 1991, at 18, he took over from Summers as i-D fashion editor, making him one of the youngest-ever leaders of a major fashion publication. He also obtained a degree from Goldsmiths, University of London.

After two decades at i-D, Enninful worked for Italian Vogue, US Vogue and most recently W, where he was credited with bringing a more conceptualised, quirky and narrative-driven aesthetic, buoying declining advertiser interest in the magazine.

2. He's an influential image maker

Enninful was a driving force behind the "grunge" movement of the 1990s, and he became a contributing editor to Italian Vogue in 1998. He spearheaded the magazine's Black Issue, declaring his intention to end the "white-out that dominates the catwalks and magazines". The issue was so successful that Condé Nast printed an extra 40,000 copies. Another notable shoot depicted Linda Evangelista in Chanel, her face wrapped in bandages, as if she'd just had plastic surgery.

Outside his editorial work, Enninful has guided many of the biggest fashion brands on their advertising campaigns, including Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Mulberry, Valentino, Calvin Klein, Fendi, Gucci, Hugo Boss and Missoni.

In 2014, he received the Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator at the British Fashion Awards. The prize commemorates a stylist, makeup artist, photographer, art director or producer for outstanding contributions to the sector.

3. He's an approachable figure on the front row

There are few individuals as supremely well connected as Enninful, who rose through the ranks alongside peers such as the makeup artist Pat McGrath, photographer Mario Testino and supermodels Kate Moss and Campbell. His Rolodex extends far beyond the realms of fashion: His social media accounts groan under the weight of regular congratulations and mutual proclamations of adoration by A-list celebrities including Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Pharrell. His Twitter profile depicts him standing with Michelle Obama. He is generally known to be gracious and friendly, characteristics that are not traditionally associated with the fashion industry's uppermost echelons.

4. He has been an outspoken force for diversity

Although there are a handful of notable exceptions, the fashion industry has a dearth of black power players, and that had been a source of immense frustration for Enninful, who has made a considerable effort to improve things. He has made headlines with accusations of racism, including after he was assigned to sit in the second row at a couture show in Paris in 2013 when white "counterparts" were in the first.

Last year, he wore an Alexander McQueen suit and a Turnbull & Asser shirt to the ceremony for his OBE, awarded as part of Queen Elizabeth II's annual birthday honours, for his services to diversify the sector. He brought along his family and Campbell to Buckingham Palace and described the moment as "one of my proudest". "If you had told my 18-year-old self that this would one day be possible, He wouldn't have believed you," he wrote on Instagram.

He celebrated at the private Mark's Club in the Mayfair neighbourhood.

With his appointment at British Vogue, Enninful will be the first nonwhite man to edit a mainstream women's fashion magazine.