Vogue makes history with male editor

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Edward Enninful is expected to add pop culture to the grande dame of fashion titles

British Vogue surprised the fashion industry yesterday with the announcement of the first male editor-in-chief in the title’s 100-year history.

The Ghanaian-British stylist Edward Enninful, 45, will take over as the magazine’s 11th editor in August. His predecessor, Alexandra Shulman, 59, is due to leave in June, having been at the helm for 25 years.

Enninful’s career includes dressing Kate Moss as a nun, casting Linda Evangelista as a bandaged plastic surgery junkie and covering Naomi Campbell in cake. Campbell last year accompanied him to Buckingham Palace to receive an OBE for his contribution to diversity in fashion and describes him as “like a brother, a male version of me”. His social media feeds feature pictures of the stylist alongside Michelle Obama, Rihanna and Madonna.

Edward Enninful with Rihanna at a bar in London

Marc Jacobs, the American fashion designer, was among the first to congratulate his “longtime friend” on Twitter yesterday, while Campbell said she was “elated and ecstatic”, adding: “There is nobody better at bringing people together and understanding the mix of pop culture and fashion.”

While most were quick to celebrate the appointment, the move raised eyebrows that the most high-profile role at a women’s glossy should be filled by a man. It is unexpected but not unprecedented. In January, Emanuele Farneti, the former editor of Italian GQ, was made editor-in-chief at Italian Vogue.

Enninful is seen by many as a fresh voice for the grande dame of fashion titles. “It’s really great news,” a senior industry figure said yesterday. “Vogue has for too long traded on its history instead of being in tune with the times.”

Enninful arrived in Britain from Ghana as a child and grew up in west London, one of six siblings. His deeply religious mother was a seamstress — credited with inspiring his love of vivid colours — and his father was an army officer. He was scouted as a model at the age of 16 and, at 18, became the world’s youngest fashion director at i-D, Terry Jones’s street style and youth culture magazine. His shoots during the late 1980s and early 1990s were inspired by the capital’s avant garde club kids.

“Edward’s desk was always a magnet for ideas and swiftly became the most glamorous corner of the office,” Jones said yesterday. “We’ve proudly followed his career for 25 years. Edward’s editorial concepts provide a really interesting commentary on society.”

Enninful has spearheaded diversity and has spoken of ending the “white-out that dominates catwalks and magazines”. An issue of Italian Vogue he worked on featured only black models. It sold so well that 40,000 extra copies were printed. Collectors pay up to £150 for copies. Enninful also shot 11 black models for the February 2011 issue, and styled plus-size models for its June 2011 Curvy Issue.

Alongside his work for magazines, Enninful styles celebrities and supermodels in campaigns for labels such as Calvin Klein and Lanvin. Since 2011, he has been creative director at W, the Manhattan social scene’s answer to Tatler. Within a year of his arrival at the Condé Nast title, advertising revenues had increased by 16 per cent.

Jonathan Newhouse, Condé Nast’s chairman, will be hoping Enninful can replicate that magic at British Vogue, where circulation rose to 220,000 copies a month under Shulman. Last year, she presided over 12 months of centenary celebrations at the title, including an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, a BBC documentary and a festival that featured Kim Kardashian as its headline act. The Duchess of Cambridge chose its birthday issue for her first cover shoot and interview.

“Edward is exceptionally talented,” Shulman said yesterday. “I look forward to working with him over the transition so that British Vogue continues to be the leading magazine in the market.”

The future of Vogue as a digital brand will also be a part of Enninful’s brief. This year, he released a short film entitled I Am an Immigrant on W’s website in response to President Trump’s travel ban. It swiftly went viral.

From now on, if the devil really does wear Prada, it will be a suit rather than the usual stiletto heels.

Edward Enninful on Kate Moss: “There is something called ‘being Mossed’. You might end up at a house party in Brixton or in Paris”
On Naomi Campbell: “She’s the last of the Dietrichs and the Garbos. She could run a small nation”
On Rihanna: “I like her nonchalance. I call her baby sister”
On Madonna: “Madge always makes fun of me”
On getting the call about his OBE: “I thought I’d done something wrong. I thought it was a prank. The contribution to diversity made it even more special — it was for helping others”
On working at American Vogue: “Did you see [the documentary] The September Issue? My story went in the bin”
On Alexander McQueen: “He was one of my best friends. On any special occasion, I always have to wear McQueen”
On photo shoots: “I want her to look rich rich rich and chic chic chic”