Whatever Enninful and his team are working on today, we will be talking about tomorrow. Last year alone, British Vogue covers of Adele, Billie Eilish and four different models (Janaye Furman, Precious Lee, Achenrin Madit and Mona Tougaard) in April's "joy" issue became instant obsessions with people around the world. (I personally loved July.)
But soon we'll be talking about Enninful's own story. In his memoir A Visible Man, he shares how he left Ghana as a child, grew up as a working-class refugee in London and became a visionary who is changing how we understand beauty. (A Visible Man is coming September 6 – pre-order it here.)
Today I'm talking with my friend Edward about diversity in media, fast fashion and sustainability and his go-to weekend look.
Question 1: You've had a huge influence in broadening the scope of people and perspectives in British journalism and culture. Today we see prominent first or second generation Black British people in fashion and entertainment — Ozwald Boateng, Michaela Coel, Ncuti Gatwa and Steve McQueen to name just a few.
But you've also been outspoken on the need for more Black talent behind the scenes in these industries. How are you accomplishing this at British Vogue?
Increasing diversity within the fashion industry has always been an important part of my work. But after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, it really came to the fore. Our September issue that year was the result. Titled "Activism Now" it featured cover stars Marcus Rashford and Adwoa Aboah photographed by Misan Harriman with a predominantly black team on set. Misan was the first black male photographer to shoot any cover of British Vogue in its 105 year history and the first black photographer for any September issue of British Vogue. At its core, the September issue was a show of thanks, as well as a rallying cry for the future.
I also try to engage wherever possible with young people and students from all sorts of backgrounds who are interested in working in fashion or publishing. Whether that’s speaking at the Oxford Union or welcoming secondary school pupils from London into Vogue House for a tour. It’s so important to open up the industry and let young people know that there is a space for them here, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.
Question 2: Climate advocates have raised concerns about the impact of fast fashion and the pace of seasonal collections on the environment. What can the fashion industry do to be better stewards of the planet?
Sustainability is right up there with diversity at the top of the fashion agenda. It’s an issue that is particularly important to the younger generation who are using their voices to demand transparency and accountability from so many different sectors. It really is incredible to witness.
In January 2022 we focussed an entire issue around this theme, highlighting ways for us all to consume more mindfully and delving into the archives for some truly amazing vintage finds. We also launched a monthly column which will educate readers on how to be conscious of sustainability when investing in new pieces. The message is to buy less and buy better.
I’ve been very lucky to discuss this topic with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, who has long been ahead of his time in calling for greater care for our planet. His Sustainable Markets Initiative’s Task Force on Fashion is a project to which I was very happy to pledge British Vogue’s full support.
Question 3: When you're at home relaxing with Alec and Ru, what do you wear? What is Edward Enninful's favourite off-duty look?
I travel so often with my work that any time I have at home with my husband and my dog is really precious to me.
At work, my personal style is very much based around a uniform of darker colours like black or navy with a crisp white shirt. I don’t tend to deviate from that too much when I’m out and about.
But when I come home at the end of the day I try and separate out my work self from my home self by transitioning out of that work uniform into my home uniform, which is usually a kaftan by a Moroccan designer. Our day off routine usually involves a dog walk around Hyde Park so comfort is key.