Why Edward Enninful's Appointment as Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue Matters
A number of publications (including the New York Times and The Guardian) have covered the news of Ghanaian Edward Enninful OBE's recent appointment to editor-in-chief of British Vogue. A longtime creative director at W Magazine with decades collectively spent at i-D Magazine (as the youngest fashion director at 18 years old) and stylist behind iconic editorial images at American and Italian Vogue, Enninful was no doubt qualified to take the helm and yet, it took the fashion world by surprise.
Last week also brought with it the promotion of Elaine Welteroth to editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue. In some ways, she already held the position as a member of the millennial triumvirate leadership alongside digital director Phillip Picardi and creative director Marie Suter. Yet, this promotion from editor to editor-in-chief marked a clear delineation from her peers, a move that will surely embolden Welteroth to define the course of this storied Conde Nast publication on her own terms and on her own two feet.
Both of these individuals are double-minorities if you will - Enninful as a black gay man and Welteroth as a black woman. Knowing even on a surface level who they are is as important as knowing that for centuries prior neither of their backgrounds would have been given credence to hold such positions within mainstream media in Western society. Add to that, Edward is African - born in Ghana and an immigrant to the United Kingdom.
For the countless teens who cut out magazine pages, taped to notebooks and bedroom walls, these appointments are not just a question of how these brands will innovate in the face of content democratization or draw new swaths of society to increase circulation; but in fact, how this increased diversity at the highest levels of fashion will shape the dreams and desires of teens today and those to come. The shift in seeing representation manifest not only in public-facing spheres, but also behind-the-scenes where critical decisions are considered, is indeed underway with yet-to-be-understood rippling effects. Their appointments are a source of inspiration in the most meaningful of ways.
As Enninful shared when receiving his 2014 Isabella Blow Award from the British Fashion Council, "If I can do it, then so can you." Such declarative words to empower a future generation in its pursuit of creativity.