Edward Enninful has the career must people including myself, dream of. Since the age of 16 he has been working in the fashion industry, first as a model and then at the age of 18 as the Fashion Director at I.D. Magazine. Since then he has been a contributing editor to U.S. Vogue and a contributing editor to Vogue Italia. He played a big role in Vogue Italia first all black issue. He had a blink or you’ll miss it cameo in The September Issue. Until I did some research (a Google search), I didn’t know he was involved in some of my favourite fashion images and editorials. Currently Enninful is now the Fashion and Style Director at W Magazine. He recently spoke with Huffington Post Style Director Hilary Moss about his career, his new position at W Magazine, and racism in the industry.
HM: How about being black in a predominantly white industry? How do you think things have changed over the past few years, either for models or designers or editors who are black? And are they changing for the better?
EE: You know, I look around the industry, there’s still very few black people. The American fashion industry really has had to reassess its approach to fashion, particularly because Obama came into office. You know, for one of the most influential women [First Lady Michelle Obama] in the country to be black. I know that meant a great deal to a lot of black people in the fashion industry. And also now we have Twitter, we have the internet, and I’ve seen so many young black people who are involved in fashion. They’re making their own clothes, they’re styling, they’re taking photographs, and I guess the future generation to come, they’re all racing to become one global fashion industry. That’s what I hope, anyway.
HM: Do you think any one part of the industry is to blame?
EE: I feel that it’s all about education. The best photographers know how to light any color skin. If you’re good at styling, it’s like the first time, you know how to dress any body shape. I think if you’re really good at what you do, you can see outside the box… It depends on the level of vision a person has.
HM: Just one more question along those lines. I know that you were instrumental with Vogue Italia‘s first all-black issue. What was it like to work with Franca Sozzani on that and what do you think about what she’s doing now?
EE: To be part of the black issue was great because it was monumental for its time. No editor had ever dedicated a whole issue to a certian ethnic group. Franca basically, puts her money where her mouth is. The beauty of the black issue was that it was an all-black issue, but it wasn’t just a one-off. She continued to feature black models, she continued to feature different body types or body shapes. She continued to challenge the norm, which is the question that we’ve been talking about, and I feel that’s what we want to take from W as well. We want to make everybody a part of the after-party. Everyone’s welcome. I feel that’s really, really important.
While I really respect Enninful and his accomplishments, I feel that nothing he says here is particularly new or enlightening. If anything it’s depressing to hear someone of his stature reaffirm what has been said about diversity in the fashion industry. I’ve been debating whether or not to written a detailed critique of fashion industry based on my own observation as a consumer and on my own experience as someone trying to “break in” to the industry. Every time I go to write about it I get very frustrated and quite frankly bored of the subject. Despite valiant efforts (like Vogue Italia all black issue) and heavy criticism, racism in the fashion industry continues to exists and I frankly don’t know what it will take for this to change. I do think its important to note that racism in fashion is apart of larger picture. Racism exists in fashion because racism exists in society. Other industries and business sectors are certainly not exempt from racism either.
I’m hoping that with this new role at W, Enninful will use his position not only to increase diversity in the magazine’s pages but also in the people he works alongside. Personally I’ve always enjoyed reading W Magazine. It was one of the first fashion magazines I bought as a teenager. For some reason I thought buying W Magazine was somewhat of a luxury and I only bought it on my birthday or for Christmas. I think the biggest reason why I enjoy it is because it had the perfect combination of fashion, design, art and architecture all in one magazine.