Alexandra Shulman is the longest standing Editor of British Vogue. She’s edited the magazine for a quarter of its 100 years of existence, and has overseen the elegant and stylistic transition from the treasured paper copies of Vogue you would longingly glare at in WHSmith’s to a global digital brand. In 1992, she was appointed as the editor of Vogue, the dream job of every fashionista everywhere (many hours I have spent writing my name in italics followed by, Editor British Vogue magazine). Shulman modernised and completely transformed the magazine; it’s now time for the brand’s next step in evolving the fashion world. To take over from the most successful editor of British Vogue ever is Edward Enninful, who was confirmed as the successor on the 10th of April. Enninful is multiple ‘firsts’ for British Vogue, as he’s both the first male and first black editor at the magazine. It’s about time for a change too.
The fashion industry has diversified over the years with more racially diverse models and brands embracing gender fluidity. However, there remain problems with brands accepting global casting, which was the case with the AW 2016 fashion shows. 75.25% of the models were white, a staggeringly high figure for a self-acclaimed ‘modern’ industry. Demna Gvasalia, the designer of Vetements, has been heavily criticised for the lack of ethnic diversity in his AW 2016 show. He replied with a bitterly weak claim: ‘our criteria for choosing models was purely based on the idea of diversity of character’. How can you be enriched by a ‘diversity’ of character if you’re fishing from one, white, American-sweetheart dominated pool?
“Despite the stagnant movement in reaching complete diversity in the industry, Enninful has facilitated so much progression with this issue”
Despite the stagnant movement in reaching complete diversity in the industry, Enninful has facilitated so much progression with this issue. At the age of 19 (yes, younger than most readers, prepare to feel immediately depressed) he became the fashion editor of i-D magazine: the youngest ever to be named as the editor at an internationally renowned fashion brand. What I know him for is his beautifully poignant ‘All Black’ issue of Vogue Italia in 2008. This featured an all-black cast of models that sold out in less than 72 hours. The issue aligned with Obama’s election and was so incredibly raw. Enninful, among other contributors to the issue, was criticised for dressing black women up as white women: every last Afro frizz and black kink were airbrushed out of the frames, as well as the skin tone being lightened.
The black author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about the importance of embracing natural black hair as a way for self-liberation for black women, and indeed since the 2008 issue, natural black hair styles are cropping up more frequently on the runway and on the glossy pages of Vogue. In 2016, Enninful was awarded an OBE for services to diversity in fashion. Naomi Campbell (among other friends of the new Editor) defined this as a ‘historic moment’ for fashion, and one step closer to ending the industry’s refusal to accept racial diversity. Enninful’s appointment as Editor of British Vogue will commence 1st August, and I expect that the magazine will undergo a transformation similarly to Shulman during her time there.