It's here. Edward Enninful's first issue of British Vogue. With Adwoa Aboah covering his debut, the significance of this fashion moment cannot be underestimated. Enough articles have laboured the point that Edward Enninful is not only the first male to take the helm at British Vogue in its 101-year history but also the first black, gay man. As a Ghanaian-born immigrant joining a magazine that has notoriously been staffed by white, upper-middle class women, his appointment back in April was nothing short of revolutionary. By choosing a black woman for his first cover – albeit one of the most popular faces in fashion in 2017 – Enninful boldly affirms his mission to make British Vogue a diverse and inclusive style title, after years of whitewashing in terms of both the staff (in Alexandra Shulman's final issue, a picture of the entire team revealed that there was not one non-white face) and the pages of the magazine itself (for 12 years during Shulman's reign, a black model did not feature on a solo cover).
Styled by Enninful and photographed by Steven Meisel, Adwoa wears a pink Marc Jacobs silk turban and off-the-shoulder blouse from the SS18 collection for the cover of the new issue, which is dedicated to Great Britain and the creatives who represent it at home and abroad. Last week, Aboah shared a teaser video announcing the imminent arrival of Enninful's first issue which led fans to speculate that she would be on the cover. In a longer teaser video posted by British Vogue over the weekend, we were given a first look inside the milestone issue, which features interviews with the biggest British designers including Jonathan Anderson, John Galliano, Victoria Beckham and Christopher Bailey as well as stories with Cara Delevingne, Millie Bobby Brown, Edie Campbell, Sadiq Khan and of course Adwoa Aboah.
In July, Adwoa Aboah was announced as a contributing editor of the title alongside Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Steve McQueen and Grace Coddington. Pat McGrath joined as a beauty editor at large, Venetia Scott replaced Lucinda Chambers as fashion director and numerous big appointments were announced in the editorial team; so a new era of British Vogue began.
Enninful is one of the most lauded stylists in the industry, with an extraordinary vision and dedication to diversity that he has showcased from his early work at i-D through to W magazine, Italian Vogue and now at the helm of British Vogue. His appointment is deserved not only for the pioneering, elevated fashion stories he will bring to the magazine and his tireless mission to create imagery that is at once aspirational and representative but also for the host of talented writers he has hired to ensure the articles are on par with the visuals. The fact that his celebrity circle and contacts list is unrivalled (he counts Rihanna, Michelle Obama and Nicole Kidman as friends) will only help bolster the magazine's A-list cover star credentials and the calibre of talent inside the magazine each month.
In a recent article for Business of Fashion, former Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman postulated on what makes a great magazine editor and appeared to make numerous swipes at her successor, criticising Enninful for his celebrity circle and his decision to cull a significant proportion of the team she built. "More than ever, [editors] need to employ and retain people who are really committed to the job. It has been interesting and educative to see over the years which of the more dilettante or famous contributors really put some effort into their contributions and which liked the idea of an association to the magazine without the tedious business of actually doing any work... The new editors also have to have a vision of how the many parts combine to make a robust whole. It’s certainly not a job for someone who doesn’t wish to put in the hours and thinks that the main part of their job is being photographed in a series of designer clothes with a roster of famous friends."
Yes, Enninful may have a roster of famous friends but a newly appointed editor shouldn't be condemned for wanting to hire a new team or recognising the relevance and influence of celebrity in 2017. Only now that his first issue has (almost) arrived can critics rightfully assess his work as an editor. In an interview with the Guardian over the weekend, Vogue contributor, supermodel and close friend of Enninful, Naomi Campbell shared a similar sentiment. “Let the work speak for itself,” said Campbell. “He has worked in this business for many years, that’s why he got the job, fair and square. And to see all this stuff come out is appalling. England should be ashamed. Support your own. And be happy that there’s going to be a new generation, a new Vogue. I’ve been appalled. I’ve been appalled.”
There is a great deal of pressure for Enninful to succeed not only as a stylist turned editor-in-chief but also in capturing and engaging a loyal, new audience at a time when interest in print editions is waning. Following the downsizing of Glamour UK last month, the announcement that Teen Vogue is folding its print issue, and the reality that many more jobs are still to be cut at Condé Nast as a number of other titles reduce the frequency with which they are published, Enninful has a mammoth task to retain and grow Vogue's readership. With high expectations and an arduous task ahead of him, Enninful, who has an abundance of talent, a wealth of contacts and most importantly, a modern vision for the magazine, may just be the perfect person to take it on.
The December issue of British Vogue hits newsstands on 10th November.