As far as I am concerned, British Vogue under its outgoing editor was complacent, borderline racist and lacked taste, therefore the benchmark for what constituted an improvement was heartbreakingly low. Then on Monday, Condé Nast announced that Edward Enninful would be taking the helm. This is probably the closest the UK will get to its Obama moment – an occasion where a mentally challenged leader is replaced by a black man with talent, charm and purpose – so it is only right that we all take a moment to consider what it means.
The deluge of adulation Enninful’s appointment provoked is usually reserved for posthumous commentary. Naomi Campbell instagrammed ‘God is the greatest!! I love you ❤❤😍😍❤❤😘😘🙏🏾… #TODAY HISTORY WAS MADE’. Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, described him as ‘a true revolutionary’. It is fair to say there is an atmosphere of unbridled joy.
After years of the industry being waterboarded by Shulman’s dullness, I share the frenzied anticipation. But as with all things fashion, the truly astute message came from Anna Wintour who in a rare moment of feeling declared ‘Edward will undoubtedly shake things up in a way that will be so exciting to watch’. The subtext: thank god Alexandra has buggered off. Edward now needs to get rid of the whole anaemic team – every last Sloaney sloth.
I never thought I would see this day !! Congratulations @edward_enninful OBE your deserve this !!! I’m truly Happy for you words cannot describe how I feel for you right now . And for what you will do in bringing people together being at the Helm of @britishvogue . God is the greatest !!! I Love you ❤❤😍😍❤❤😘😘🙏🏾 #EDITORINCHIEF #EDWARD ENNINFUL OBE #BRITISH VOGUE. #TODAY HISTORY WAS MADE
The brilliance of the imagery that Enninful creates fully warrants Wintour’s excitement. His work has always been beautiful and current. It was why he was promoted to fashion director on i-D magazine at the age of 19. In his recent role as creative director on W Magazine, he’s delivered iconic A-list covers with the likes of Rihanna, Lupita Nyong’o and Ruth Negga. And he has connections – he’s friends with everyone from Marc Jacobs to Michelle Obama – and properly understands what young people are interested in. To continue in this vein, he will need people who are equally talented and progressive and sadly trying to find that in the current crop of Vogue staff will be hard.
While it is widely understood that the focus of the magazine will switch from words to images (this is no bad thing given that there is a ‘Life Lessons in Red Lipstick’ feature this month), less is being said about how the cultural positioning may shift. In 2008, Enninful, along with the late Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani, put together the magazine’s black models only edition. When Trump tried to ban Muslims coming to the US, he responded by getting 81 leading fashion figures to declare on video ‘I am an immigrant’. Contrast this with an office where the closest thing to controversy is someone forgetting to put a kiss at the end of an email, and it’s clear that a purge will need to take place.
Once the salivating ceases, it will dawn upon all that Vogue is on the verge of becoming a war zone – a beautifully-scented, passive-aggressive one. Clever ideas will infiltrate camp in the form of new blood; staff will desert to Porter Magazine where they can create terrible work without reproach; and while the old guard chew over survival strategies like demented chihuahuas, Enninful will be busy turning the magazine into the kind of entity that people actively want to buy. Let us pray for them all.