For the past three days, British Vogue has been trending as Edward Enninful becomes their first Black British editor, and what should’ve been the usual praise like we’ve seen in the past with other newly appointed editors from Alexandra Shulman to Anna Wintour, quickly turned into an online spiral of politics. So why has the appointment of a new editor of Vogue caused such discussion?
In an industry with a deep-rooted history of exclusion and prejudice, from the racism Naomi Campbell experienced in her supermodel heydays, to superbrands such as Dolce & Gabbana using blackface to sell jewellery, Edward Enninful’s position has definitely broken barriers in the fashion world. Earning the right to dictate who wears what from past roles as fashion directer to i-D at 18 years old and W, to being an editor at Italian Vogue, naturally he was the right guy for the job.
It comes as a surprise, then, that most articles on Enninful’s new iconic role was not on his credentials, experience, or even celebrity connections, but on his background and sexuality. Gay men are central to the fashion industry, any arguments to that will be quickly dismissed. From Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele to Louis Vuitton’s past director Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Lagerfeld and Versace, the long list of fashion houses and gay influencers that have mounded fashion and style into what we know today, changing boundaries, embracing flamboyance and dictating what’s ‘in and now’ for however long, I couldn’t understand how the news of a gay editor would then cause thousands of mentions of twitter, instagram and facebook in discussion? Sure it’s a milestone, but like NY magazine says, Enninful isn’t “A politician, he’s an editor”. That isn’t to say Enninful doesn’t get into any debates; he spearheaded the all-black edition of Italian Vogue in 2008, but his also one of the most talented stylists of this century, accomplishing much more than his predecessors, and has been penned as the person who’ll push Vogue into the 21st century.
The bottom line is that Enninful represents the current modernisation of British fashion, which many people don’t like. Two years ago, no one would be seen wearing designer labels with a pair of trainers, or tracksuits with brogues, but the youth culture of Britain is now embedded in mainstream fashion and it’s no wonder Vogue wants to keep up by appointing an editor who’s known for his “edgy elegance“. As a woman, I could care less that his male, and to be honest the whole male dominance in fashion argument went over my head, all I could think of when seeing the news on my TL was ‘wow’, the fashion industry is clearly changing. If a gay black man can be appointed as the editor of British Vogue, the bible of style, then who’s to say that the fashion industry as a whole can’t change too? That it won’t have an effect on White-Washed runways and under-appreciated minority models?
Regardless of the outcome, Enninful’s role comes at the right time for a magazine that some consider classic but out-dated.
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