Much of the coverage about the arrival of Edward Enninful as editor of Vogue talks about ‘surprise’ in the fashion industry. He may be the first male editor-in-chief of the British edition of the title, but Condé Nast, who founded the US original in 1892 based on a French magazine, was hardly a woman. Somehow, the company always seem to generate surprise at these announcements – just look back at Alexander Shulman’s appointment. But Condé Nast tends to promote from within and, as the creative director of W, Enninful has been under the nose of Jonathan Newhouse, the big chief, in New York for six years.
Of course, he is a rare black editor at a big Western magazine. How many others are there? I remember commenting on the loss of Helen Bazuaye as a black editor back in 2004 when 19 closed. And former Cosmopolitan editor Linda Kelsey has blamed the conservative nature of the industry for the lack of black models on magazine covers.
Shulman has had a hard time at Vogue from Naomi Campbell, who was first black model to appear on the covers of Vogue in the UK. Campbell attacked Vogue in 2008 for not putting her on the cover often enough. Shulman dismissed the comments as ‘a PR thing’, saying ‘Campbell was just trying to get publicity for the event she was doing’. Campbell has also claimed that an Australian magazine editor lost the job after putting Campbell on the cover.
Enninful, who is a 45-year-old Ghanaian-British stylist, will take over as Vogue’s 11th editor on August 1, following Shulman after her quarter-century stint. She will be a hard act to follow, with circulation doubling under her tenure to 220,000 copies a month. She was also lauded in the press for last year’s centenary celebrations campaign for the title, with a National Portrait Gallery exhibition, a BBC TV documentary and a Duchess of Cambridge cover.
He joins Emanuele Farneti, editor of Italian Vogue, as a man running an edition of the US-owned fashion monthly. Farneti, like Shulman, was editor of men’s monthly GQ, before moving across to the bigger woman’s monthly.
Enninful was touted as the world’s youngest fashion director when, aged 18, he took the post at Terry Jones’s i-D. and has spent the past six years as creative director at W in New York. His campaigning side has come out with his talk of ending the ‘white-out’ he sees on catwalks and in magazines and he styled Italian Vogue’s Black Issue back in 2008.
Enninful has more digital savvy than Shulman, judging by the success of ‘I Am an Immigrant’ video he released on W’s website after Donald Trump’s travel ban. With print sales under the cosh, ad revenues and digital presence will provide the benchmarks on which he will be judged.