By Thuli Jane Maseko
Looking through Mr. Enninful’s Instagram, I am becoming increasingly inclined to renew my ee subscription for another year. Haute couture, Dr. King quotes, the most famous faces on our billboards, receiving an OBE for his efforts to diversify fashion – already I feel an affinity with Edward Enninful that I do not with most women in fashion publications.
The fashion world has a race problem. There are obviously problems with representation and diversity across other intersections but given Enninful’s and my ethnicity race is particularly salient. In recent times, British Vogue has made numerous mistakes in the regions of diversity and inclusivity. White women painted black and dressed as geishas; ‘diversity issues’ brimming with cultural appropriation. Enter Edward Enninful. The solution? I believe so. Does his being a man concern me? Not at the minute, and I’m fairly certain it will stay that way. I concede that there is reason to question the relevance of Enninful’s race in his appointment as the Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue given his impressive career record that has spanned more than 25 years (though I wager most people of colour will disagree with you if you do so). Having held creative positions at iD, Vogue Italia and W Magazine, accompanied by his mastery of social media, the future and reputation of British Vogue is most definitely in safe hands. But when 0.2% of editors for British publications are black, Enninful’s blackness is very important.
The implications of his getting the job are two-fold, affecting not only the world of fashion but that of print journalism in general. Further, to disregard Enninful’s race as unimportant is to disregard the nature and significance of a large proportion of his contributions to the industry. Some of the biggest names behind the art are ethnic minorities whose vision and influence grace the pages of these publications, but of the 25+ issues of British Vogue under my desk, I recall but one black woman on the cover. I most certainly do not want Vogue to become an overtly political magazine that deals with heavy activism – it’s indulgent and glossy and it should stay that way.
Nevertheless, fashion is more powerful than it is oftentimes given credit for. It’s an art, a form of expression that holds the ability to shape identities. The current faces of the industry leave me wondering how I can create something for myself. If you think such a view melodramatic I shan’t seek your pardon. Nowadays, everything is political, everything speaks to some form of social issue. But it is not only in the pages of The Economist or Politico that the issues of today lie. Fashion reflects society. The more diversity I see coming through my door each month, the more confident I feel stepping out of it.
So, Mr Enninful, you can expect my subscription come November.
Photograph: PA/Condé Nast