The acclaimed Edward Enninful will no longer be Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue but instead will settle for the position of Global Creative and Cultural Adviser to magazine publisher Conde Nast.
It is a comedown and he will have plenty of time to twiddle his thumbs and take on one or two side projects.
This follows news that he has been having a number of tiffs with the grande dame of fashion publishing, Anna Wintour who heads up American Vogue and who is also Global Editorial Director.
Enninful was never going to win that war and Conde Nast would find it inconceivable to replace Wintour with him. He should have been wise to that.
Wintour joined Vogue in 1983 as Creative Director and in 1985 became Editor of British Vogue. Three years later she was appointed Editor of American Vogue and complete changed the magazine bringing in more readers and giving it renewed cache.
She has been trusted at Conde Nast for 40 years, becoming a style icon herself. She brings certainty, continuity and guaranteed revenue to one of the largest magazine publishers in the world.
Enninful took the helm as Editor of British Vogue in 2017. He enjoyed the reputation as the enfant terrible of hip fashion magazines, making a mark at i-D where he was appointed fashion director at just 18. He went on to be Fashion Director at W magazine.
During the heyday of both The Face and Arena in the 80s and 90s, Enninful was major arbiter of fashion. His pronouncements on the works of Paul Smith, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Galliano and Oswald Booting held weight.
Wintour no doubt monitored his progress with great interest.
His appointment as Editor of British Vogue was a first in many respects. The first black, gay and male editor of that iteration of Vogue. Conde Nast was no doubt pleased with how it all played out-Anna Wintour in America, Edward Enninful in the UK. One can imagine the Cheshire cat grin on the Chairman of Conde Nast, Jonathan Newhouse’s face.
All editors want to do things their way, and follow their vision. They invariably do away with those who do not fall in line and bring in their own team.
Conde Nast would have seen the lady in the glass tower in New York as top dog, someone to guide the much younger Ghanian whom much was expected from in London.
They have different perspectives, they view fashion from different generations. Wintour has a winning track record, Enniniful perhaps might have seen her as someone who has had her time and is now out of touch with what is cutting edge and happening out there.
Friction and butting heads is what this is all about. It has nothing to do with racial prejudice or the vitriolic skirmishes and slights recounted by the late Andre Leon Talley. There are Enninful admirers who will draw for that card.
Enninful is into diversity and championing the woke age. He may have believed that Vogue must reflect this new epoch. Wintour has seen epochs come and go but has assiduously adhered to Vogue’s credo of influencing high society, fashion and culture. At 73, she has seen it all and prides herself on always being relevant and ahead of trends. Perhaps Enninful did not want to defer to that experience and her acknowledged expertise. He wanted to be the young lion, running out the old head of the pride.
It could only end one way.
Vogue was formed in 1892 and for well over a century has been the authority on fashion. In modern times, Wintour has led the charge and she is not ready to relinquish that. Enninful should have been aware of that. He was promoted to Vogue’s European Editorial Director and had a lot on his plate. It would have been better for him to keep his head down and get on with it. He should have played it as Wintour’s appointed successor with her blessing, instead of allowing rancour and whispers that he is a usurper to take hold. Now he will never ascend the throne.
Wintour knows all too well that fads come fast and fade away. Many fashion magazines have had their moment in the sun and then disappeared into obscurity. Wintour has seen to it that Vogue endures and remains top of the heap.
With all of his experience and talent, Enninful with the support of his friends like Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Madonna should have the courage of his convictions and launch his own magazine – rather like Trump did with his Truth social media platform after been thrown off Twitter. Enninful could preside over the first major fashion magazine of the twenty-first century, a bible for diversity and a champion for the vision he espouses. Enniful is sure to get the financial backing and may even decide to list his publishing house.
The adviser role he now has is a position for those who are sent to pasture. It is something the likes of Graydon Carter would be offered- an emeritus title, a nod that says you are still one of us. But even Carter has started his own publication, AirMail and is having a lot of fun with it in his seventies.
As it is now, Enninful will have to go up the chain for approval on everything and he will have no autonomy. He will attend a few board lunches, nod sagely at men whose hair has turned to silver and try to keep up with kids and report back to the Oracle.
He will miss the cut and thrust of the newsroom, determining who is hot and who is not, and spotting fashion trends. Instead, he will be a man with a beating pulse lying in a golden sarcophagus.