Style Observer

A Barrier-Breaking Choice

Sunday, May 07, 2017

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The announcement on Monday, April 10, that Ghanaian-born one-time model and stylist Edward Enninful had become British Vogue 's new editor was not the same kind of emotional tear-jerker as, say, Mandela's release from Robben Island or the swell of pride felt watching our beloved Usain Bolt sprint into the annals of Olympic glory. It was, however, as if the world slowed, releasing the news in capsule form. EE would actually become the first male, indeed the first black male, to helm British Vogue, succeeding Alexandra Shulman, who steered the publication for over two decades. Who would have thunk it? Who even knew that he was in the runnings?

The 45-year-old former contributing editor at US, and Italian Vogue, who has been creative and style director at W magazine since 2011, did the impossible. It had taken a century — this, according to the British Guardian — “ Vogue has opted to appoint its first male editor in its 101-year history and the first-ever black editor of a mainstream British style magazine”.

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

American Vogue editor Anna Wintour heralded his appointment as “brilliant”.

Our Rock-fab fashion blogger Tamu MacPherson, who is based in Milan, Italy, raved about it, as did make-up guru Pat McGrath, supermodel Jourdan Dunn, Kate Moss and EE's BFF Naomi Campbell, who declared “TODAY HISTORY WAS MADE”. Industry insiders opine that now in the driver's seat the man who has long pushed for diversity in fashion will “add lots more colour... push for even more...”

Edward Enninful was born in Ghana and raised in Ladbroke Grove, West London, the last stop on the Brixton tube line. It's ironic, really, that he was spotted on the tube by the fashion stylist Simon Foxton. Matthew Schneier, in the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times (April 29, 2017), quotes Foxton as saying, “ He must have had something about him. I don't stop that many people.”

One can only imagine the challenge a then 16-year-old Enninful faced trying to convince his parents about a career in modelling. The rest has now become yet another #yeswecan moment, with Enninful in a three-decade career moving from Foxton's model to assistant and, two years later at the age of 18, to i-D's fashion editor to (brilliantly described by Schneier) “the tony doorstep of Vogue House in Hanover Square”.

Think: Venus and Serena Williams at SW9 for the very first time and you'll get the general gist.

SO adds its own well wishes to the new editor of British Vogue. Mindful of the expectations, it is our hope that our fashion scene will so ignite him that, like Grace Coddington, one of his many benefactors, he will find Jamaica a veritable treasure trove of a platform from which to direct and style our local rock stars who are, thankfully, no strangers to him.Meiling Esau - Fashion influencer and designer Trinidad & Tobago

His appointment is brilliant news. I have followed him from the pages of I-D magazine to W. He champions diversity in the industry and has always had a fearless approach to fashion, which never fails to transport me to a magical world where anything is possible.

Kirk Pickersgill - Co-founder of Greta Constantine

Two words: hope and history. I am so proud of Edward. It is well-deserved. He is a perfect example of hope, dream big and work even harder. He has also made history. He will be in all history books as the first black male to be the editor-in-chief of British Vogue.

Matthew ‘Mateo’ Harris - Internationally acclaimed jewellery designer

He is certainly a role model for me. From humble beginnings to working hard to becoming one of the best in the industry. One can only aspire to walk in his footsteps. I love when talent just transcends race!

Peter Elias - Caribbean arbiter of style

The first male at the helm in British Vogue’s history…and an African, too. I’ve been an immense fan of his work since i-D magazine, more than 25 years ago. His bold editorial style with his range of talent and experiences will certainly enhance this already influential fashion magazine. I’m looking forward!

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