Vogue Editor Edward Enninful says he must 'reflect what is going on in the world'

Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue, after attending the Victoria Beckham Autumn/Winter 2019 London Fashion Week show at Tate Britain. Credit: PA

I won't lie to you, I did wake up 45 minutes earlier than usual today. 

Well, when you are interviewing the editor-in-chief of British Vogue, you need that extra time to look your best.

My bedroom floor back at home is still heaped with discarded clothing I deemed too unacceptable to wear this morning, but when Edward Enninful walks in and says I look "chic"... then the mess is totally worth it.

He instantly put the room at ease with a smile, a laugh and a quick outfit change.

Edward's family Credit: Edward Enninful, 'A Visible Man' 

Edward has reached the pinnacle of the fashion industry. Now 50 years old, his work is very much the benchmark that others strive to reach.

Born in Ghana before coming to Britain at the age of 13, Edward's love of fashion started when he worked alongside his mother who was a dressmaker.

"Back then I didn't know what fashion was," Edward reflects.

"All I knew was that I was in my mother's atelier making incredible clothes, watching incredible women of all shapes and sizes.

"My mother gave me a sense of beauty not being one thing."

A young Edward Enninful Credit: Edward Enninful, 'A Visible Man' 

At 16 he was spotted on the train by a stylist who said he could be a model. Edward did just that for a few of his teenage years before gravitating to the fast-paced world behind the camera.

He was appointed fashion director of the magazine i-D at 18, later becoming contributing fashion editor at both Vogue Italia and American Vogue, as well as creative fashion director at W Magazine.

In 2017, Edward was made editor-in-chief of British Vogue. He says that he is a custodian with the "responsibility to deal with the world we live in."

Everything he does in his role "needs to reflect what is going on at that particular moment in time," he says.

"It's always to reflect what is going on in the world, through a fashion lens or a cultural lens."

Edward shares the advice he gives young people starting in the fashion industry

Edward is a leading advocate for diversity and inclusivity within the fashion industry.

He actively encourages ethnically diverse cover stars, photographers and stylists, while working to ensure that age and disability aren't limiting factors.

For him, having power means he must use his platform "to make the world a better place".

"I want to show a world where everyone is welcome," he says.

"That is ingrained in me because of my background."

Edward with hairstylist Eugene Souleiman Credit: Edward Enninful, 'A Visible Man' 

Since coming to the UK in the 1980s, Edward, a gay man, has experienced racism and prejudice.

In his new memoir 'A Visible Man', he recounts the highs and lows of his assimilation into the British way of life.

Looking back on things, Edward admits "the UK is better for black people and minorities now, but we can always do better".

"Even with Vogue, I can always do better," he says. "I feel like as a country, we really have to move forward together."

"I would like to see people from different backgrounds, religions, ages welcomed in this country."

"I was welcomed into England and that's the England I know. I would love to see that carry on."

Edward tells Rishi about how difficult he found it dealing with his long-lasting health issues.

Edward is often outspoken about social injustice and societal wrongs but isn't scared of the potential backlash.

He told me emphatically that fear isn't in his vocabulary. "We had to leave a country where we could have been assassinated," he says. "We ended up so poor in England, penniless."

"There is nothing anyone can do to scare me. I lost everything to get here."

Edward Enninful (centre) after receiving his Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) with Naomi Campbell and Baroness Amos Credit: PA

Back in September 2019, Edward worked with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

She guest-edited an edition of Vogue, which featured 15 female change makers including Greta Thunberg on the cover.

"I think it was the fact that she was an American, a divorcee, she was an actress, and she was Black," he says, after forging a close relationship with Meghan.

"All these things together made the press find her undesirable to be with Prince Harry.

"I hope the press see that she does mean to do good in the world."

The Duchess of Cornwall (left) with British Vogue Editor Edward Enninful on the front row during a visit to London Fashion Week Credit: PA

I couldn't leave an interview with arguably the most on-trend and in-the-know man in the fashion industry without asking a few quickfire questions:

1. What music do you listen to right now?

I'm listening to Afrobeats, I'm obsessed. I love Wizkid. It takes me back to my childhood, growing up in an African household. 

2. What's one trend that you are glad lives in the past?

I never liked leather leggings, it's very well documented.

3. Your closet is on fire, you can only grab one thing...what is it?

I'm going to grab a basic black t-shirt. That's it.

I guess that means I should buy myself some black t-shirts and throw away my leather leggings.

Edward Enninful's memoir 'A Visible Man' is available from Tuesday 6 September 2022.

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