When it comes to fair recognition within the world of fashion, the industry can often play dirty. However, this wasn’t the case when W Magazine’s Creative Director Edward Enninful received an OBE this year, giving hope to black men and women who dream of being successful in the fashion industry.
Growing up in West London’s Ladbroke Grove, Enninful had an expectation for his career from his Ghanaian family that many people with academically focused parents can relate to. Yet, the spontaneous fashion opportunities in London (such as being model scouted by famous stylist Simon Foxton) appeared much too attractive to turn away. Enninful gained a degree from Goldsmith’s, and by the time he was 18 he had already secured a job at i-D magazine, becoming the youngest fashion director for an international publication in the world. The 90s saw him become a creative trend pioneer due to his love of British fashion.
Directing at i-D was just the beginning of Enninful’s successful career, and it certainly wasn’t the most groundbreaking of his achievements. When we look at all that he’s done not only for the fashion industry in general, but specifically for models of colour as well, there is a fine amount to reel off. In 1998, Enninful was made Contributing Editor for Vogue Italia and during his years there, history was made.
His construction of the “Black Issue” for the magazine in 2008 – which featured only black models such as Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn, Alek Wek and Chanel Iman – is still regarded as one of fashion’s finest moments. Its aim was a high profile showcase of black beauty, in one of the most sought out magazines in the world, as opposed to having the odd black model here and there. Not only was this a huge challenge to the lack of racial diversity in the industry but it also became the magazines bestselling issue… EVER! As soon as the magazine was published in the UK and USA it sold out immediately with a rush of 30,000 extra copies needing to be reprinted in the US, 20,000 in the UK and an extra 10,000 in Italy. His appreciation for women that haven’t been fairly included in magazines didn’t stop there; he was also responsible for the plus size cover for the Italian magazine in 2011 entitled “Belle Vere”.
Enninful’s ability to challenge the norm has gone from strength to strength, but the best part about it is the grace which he exudes in doing so. Enninful has worked with black and plus-sized models to show that not only are they just as beautiful as the white women that frequent our magazines, but they too can sell out copies. His styling of transgender Ru Paul’s Drag Race contestant Carmen Carrera in W Magazine is another beautiful example of a brilliant and memorable fashion piece featuring a marginalized woman.Enninful has managed to amass a huge following due to his creative direction and prowess from the likes of models such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, who he considers as dear friends, all the way to fashion designer Donatella Versace – who has admitted to crushing hard on the British icon. Thankfully, the work of one of London’s most fashionable men hasn’t gone unrecognised – his recent OBE for his work on diversity within the fashion industry is testament to the profound impact he has had on the industry.
His work for the industry allows so many of us to see that it’s one thing to believe that there’s a problem with the fashion industry but it takes courage to really take the plunge to actively and successfully do something about it. Enninful has had a bright and extremely inspiring career spanning over 30 years and we get chills thinking about what this fashion king will achieve next.