Diversity appears to be gathering momentum at the moment. Whether it be on the senior management strategic agenda or on the benches of government at the Houses of Parliament, there is a business, economic and social case for an increased level of diversity within all sectors of industry and society. The fashion industry is no exception.
For 101 years, the very prestigious Vogue UK has been at the pinnacle of British fashion, carrying a formidable and enviable reputation of modern class and elegance. It is widely referred to as the Fashion ‘Bible’, a testament to its iconic title and legacy in the global fashion world. Since its first publication in 1916, the magazine has had 9 editors. All female. All white. Until now.
In recognition of the necessity for greater diversity and walking the talk, the Facilitate4Me Change Practitioner of the Month award for November 2017 goes …jointly to Edward Enninful, for becoming Vogue UK’s first black male editor – in -chief and Vogue owner Condé Nast International for the appointment.
Born in Ghana and raised in London, Enninful has had an illustrious fashion career spanning three decades. Beginning as a model at the age of 16, Enninful has worked as a fashion director, stylist and fashion editor for some of the world’s biggest fashion magazines, such as Italian Vogue, American Vogue and W magazine. Diversity in the fashion industry has long been an issue close to his heart. Whilst working as the contributing editor to Italian Vogue, he led the magazine’s first “Black Issue” featuring only black models, including the likes of Naomi Campbell and Jourdan Dunn. The issue was so successful that the magazine had to print an additional 60,000 copies. Enninful was also awarded an OBE in 2016 for his services to diversity in the fashion industry.
In his new role as editor-in-chief of British Vogue, Enninful plans to carry on his work in diversity in fashion. In an interview with the BBC, he said, [the emphasis is ours] “my Vogue is about being inclusive, it’s about diversity. Showing different women, different body shapes, different races, class…Before I got the job I spoke to certain women and they felt they were not represented by the magazine, so I wanted to create a magazine that was open and friendly. A bit like a shop that you are not scared to walk into… You are going to see all different colours, shapes, ages, genders, religions”
Under Enninful’s leadership, the magazine is being hailed as the “New Vogue”, one which puts equality, diversity and greater representation at the forefront of the industry. Unlike in previous editions, Enninful’s first issue seeks to diversify its focus, shining the spotlight less on the traditional staple of latest fashion trends, and more on social and political issues currently affecting the UK. His first edition’s cover star for example, 25-year-old mixed-race model Adwoa Aboah, runs an organisation called ‘Gurls Talk’, which encourages young women to speak about issues affecting them such as mental health, body image and social media. This issue also features an interview with the London Mayor Sadiq Khan by the supermodel and newly- appointed contributing editor Naomi Campbell, on topics such as institutional racism, the gender pay gap and the impact of Brexit.
In an industry that has long been criticised for promoting false, unrealistic and restrictive images of beauty and issues, we hope Enninful’s appointment to one of the most powerful fashion magazines in the world can be the catalyst for more meaningful change and diversity.
Facilitate4Me also specifically recognises Vogue owner, Condé Nast International, for appointing Enninful in the first place. Having previously had 9 white women as the Vogue UK editor-in-chief, it would have been very easy and safe for Condé Nast International to continue with this trend – after all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it right? Hopefully Enninful will be granted the support he needs from within the company and industry to ensure the magazine really is a “New Vogue”, rather than just the same old wine in new wineskins.