The first black man to lead the world’s biggest fashion magazine is standing down as the editor of British Vogue. What does this tell us about the magazine industry?
The Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue, Edward Enninful was the first black man to become the head of any of the 26 Vogue titles. He rose to become the European Editorial Director of Vogue, second only to Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief of the American mastership and the Global Chief Content Officer for Condé Nast – the publishing company that owns the magazine.
Having joined the magazine at a time when the industry believed “that black women, all women of colour, on covers don’t sell”, Enninful was determined to change that and to prove them wrong. He firmly believed that his magazine should reflect the values of the world around him.
And that’s exactly what he did. He chose the first Black photographer to shoot The September Issue – the magazine’s most important of the year; asked the Duchess of Sussex, Megan Markle to guest-edit a special Forces of Change edition which highlighted pioneers and campaigners including Marcus Rashford; and, made Judi Dench a cover star – the oldest woman to appear on the front of the magazine.
What’s more, he proved that inclusivity wouldn’t scare off advertisers and could maintain the magazine’s profitability.
But in early June, Enninful announced in a staff memo that he would be moving to a new ‘advisory’ role for British Vogue and Global Creative and Cultural advisor to the magazine globally. While phrased as a promotion, the release of the news with little fanfare on a Friday afternoon and the wooliness of the ‘advisory role’ aroused some suspicion.
For years rumours have circulated of a tearse relationship between Edward Enninful and his boss, Anna Wintour.
She’s been head of American Vogue since 1988 and remains all powerful, which is why some have concluded that the heir apparent – Edward Enninful – got tired of waiting for his ascent to the throne.
He’s more famous than he was six years ago and could make a lot more money as a freelance stylist. But his departure tells us something about the business too.
As audiences moved online, advertising followed. Leaving publishing companies like Conde Nast struggled financially and in dire need of an overhaul. Global reach and large audiences were crucial to a magazine’s success and the individuality of a print magazine, with autonomous, and expensive, editors were not.
Something that the new CEO of Conde Nast, Roger Lynch, recognised. He replaced many of the famous editors who lined the runway front rows with a “head of content” and choices being made in global HQ. Enninful’s departure from British Vogue is another nail in the coffin for the age of Editor-in-Chief Bringing and securing Anna Wintour the top spot.