What it means to have a black Editor-in-Chief at British Vogue

Edward Enninful is the first male and first black Editor of British Vogue in its 100-year-history Credit: Giorgio Niro

Edward Enninful is the first male and first black Editor of British Vogue in its 100-year-history Credit: Giorgio Niro

News broke yesterday that the hugely anticipated spot for Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue had been filled. Most media outlets described the appointment as "surprising" as Samantha Cameron's sister, Emily Sheffield was hotly tipped for the role, as was the Financial Times' Fashion Editor Jo Ellison. But did we ever imagine having a black Editor-in-Chief of Vogue? No. I didn't, and nor did my BAME friends. 

Conde Nast, British Vogue's parent company, yesterday confirmed that the first man and first black editor to take the helm of Britain's most powerful fashion publication in its 100-year-history would be Edward Enninful. 

A 1998 Naomi Campbell i-D cover styled by Enninful

A 1998 Naomi Campbell i-D cover styled by Enninful

What's significant about this appointment is that Enniful is cut from a completely different cloth to his successors, Alexandra Shulman, Elizabeth Tilberis and Anna Wintour. After all, the fashion stylist has come from humble beginnings. Born in Ghana, he moved to the UK where he lived in West London's Ladbroke Grove. He started his fashion career just aged 16 when he was spotted by a stylist Simon Foxton in London, and later by a model scout. He then began to work alongside the founders of i-D magazine and was promoted to fashion director aged just 19, a position he held for 20 years.

Alexandra Shulman, however, is a features writer and novelist. She has spent the last 25 years steering the fashion bible through leafy West London neighbourhoods aimed at the Notting Hill set and Portobello trawlers, Mayfair clubbers and Knightsbridge boutiques and families who have second homes in St Barts. How can Enniful follow this?

But London is changing and so is fashion and appointing Enninful is a step in the right direction for diversity. Especially where fashion has been in the limelight for such things, it's important to now know that perhaps he will instil change at the helm. 

If you had told my 18-year-old self that this would one day be possible, he wouldn’t have believed you.
— https://www.instagram.com/p/BPahtLYge8G/

The 45-year-old has had an incredible career to date, working with the biggest names in fashion, including Christian Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, Valentino, Fendi, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Missoni, Giorgio Armani, Mulberry and Calvin Klein. He's also friends with Pharrell. 

Not to forget he was awarded an OBE for his services to diversity in the fashion industry. The outspoken, but graceful, fashion icon also takes a stand against racism. Back in 2013 during Paris Couture Week, he made headlines after he was assigned a seat on the second row, despite working his position as W Magazine's fashion and style director at the time, and he took to Twitter to vent about his white "counterparts" were in the first.

He had a point. The industry is known for its stories on inequality and insensitivity due to lack of diversity and especially with Enninful's stellar career, who can blame him for speaking up? 

So what does this mean for people of colour? It means we have a black man at the forefront of the fashion industry. British Vogue needed a change and the style bible is well suited to him. I don't understand why media outlets are focussing on the fact that the new editorship has been filled by a man because male editors aren't something new. We have more male editors than black ones.

What's significant to me is the fact that we have a black Editor-in-Chief of the most well-known fashion bible in the world. In an industry where almost all ethnic groups and religions are significantly under-represented, I am, and I'm sure many of my fellow ethnic journalists are, feeling all the more inspired after hearing such brilliant news. Finally, the future of journalism and fashion is changing and I'm glad to be part of it.