On 2nd June 2023, it was announced that Edward Enniful, the editor-in-chief of the astounded British Vogue, who had revolutionised, diversified, and helped modernise the brand over the last evolving six years, would step down. The polemic character, championed for disrupting the white female paradigm of fashion, but also criticised for his subsequent stiltedness in instilling change, was at first rumoured to have perhaps been pushed out. However, such critical assumptions were far from the truth, and in fact, Enniful’s role within our fashion curriculum is only expanding. As his grip over British Vogue lessens, his role in the global creativity of the brand name widens.
Just 13 days later, British Vogue staged an iconic performance over the Firenze city scape, gathering runway icons from across the globe to showcase the diverse designs housed by the authentic Italian department store, LuisaViaRoma. Threatened by hours of torrential rain, the thunderclouds eventually subdued as the stage lights glowed, and the romantic open-air show over Florence’s Piazzale Michelangelo waltzed into full force. At 23:00pm, after an appropriately high-heeled and suited crowd had waited patiently behind the immense production scaffolding, the 2000+ guests eventually shuffled into their rows and lined the long dark runway that almost floated atop the renaissance buildings.
British Vogue recruited a diverse and striking ensemble of icons to showcase more than 50 archival looks from over 50 brands. The impressionable and tender voice of Andrea Boccelli awakened the evening, as four of his most famous and beloved classics sung celebration to LuisaViaRoma’s 90th anniversary. Attempting to chart the evolution of fashion, design and style, as well as the combined timelessnes and temporality of influencers, icons and celebrities, Piergiorgio Del Moro casted an acutely diverse show. Albeit his casting didn’t feel force, nor did it aim to fulfil quotas unlike some media stunts of 2023, but rather it felt like a beautifully appropriate amalgamation of names and faces.
It was Natalia Vodianova, both Russian supermodel and UN Goodwill Ambassador, who opened the show, draped in the dramatic elegance of Giambattista Valli tulle and stepping in time to the sweetness and deepness of Bocelli. She was followed in entourage by the likes of plus-size model Ashley Graham, head to toe in Dolce and Gabbana leopard, and Alton Devon Mason, the first black male model who broke history for Chanel, and who donned a Maison Margiela check ensemble this evening. Both Penelope Tree, London’s face of the swinging sixties, and Pat Cleveland, who also revived her modelling career in her 70th years, both joined the icon parade in pieces from The Row and Givenchy respectively. Cleveland was a standout amongst the 70 models, as she livened her walk playfully, interacting with the crowd and onlookers, and giving a refreshing performance that was different to the staunchness so typical of traditional runways. Her drama was similarly replicated by the likes of Gottmik and Violet Chacki, two iconic and beloved drag queens from the famed television programme hosted by Ru Paul whose expressiveness and animation brought an interactive vivacity to the fashion and history being applauded. Lauren Wasser, a double amputee model, also joined the crew, glowing in a gold armoured corset from Loewe that matched her goldened prosthetics. But the performance wasn’t just about models new and old, and in fact many British Vogue contributors were recruited in the lineup, with key names such as Munroe Bergdorf and Emma Thynn joining the haute couture assemblage. In this way, the casting condensed the true scope and diversity of what it means to be “in vogue”, as it congregated models, creators and thinkers, all of whom stood to represent the modern brand name Enniful had attempted to forge.
Enniful is known for his critical commentary of the refined fashion industry, having notably said that the February fashion month earlier this year made him feel as though he were “stepping into a time machine” due to the conformity and similarity of the models. His April 2023 cover, featuring plus-sized models Paloma Elsesser, Prescious Lee and Jilla Kortleve, two of whom made an appearance in Florence, sought to hail these curvier women as the brightest stars of modelling. “This cover wasn’t conceived to be ‘statement’. It is simply Vogue: the most charismatic models of the moment, in important fashion, embodying the mood of now”. His May issue, titled ‘Reframing Fashion’, in a similar bid for diversification, featured five disabled models, and continued his battle to break the stereotypical image of what it means to be a cover girl.
Despite the applause for his seemingly audacious moves in rejuvenating the image of Vogue, Enniful’s name has recently been tarnished amidst rumours or rifts with Anna Wintour. What’s more, his “promotion” has even been dubbed an “upwards firing” by some, who think the wider team wanted him ousted, and to inject a new leader into the Vogue picture. Ironically, and sadly, the editor did in fact take a literal tumble when he emerged from the backstage on the warm evening of the 15th, but despite misjudging his step, he was warmly greeted and encouraged to carry on by the crowd. Whilst Enniful’s manifesto has definitely been one of diversity, and from the outside he seems to have been very successful in recolouring the Vogue public image, there are increasing reports that his internal hiring didn’t quite strike the same balance. Criticised for surrounding himself with his friends, Enniful has come under fire for perpetuating a culture of blame and been depicted as the leader of a glamorous cliquey in-crowd at the publishing house. In Vogue’s history, and wider journalism history, it isn’t uncommon for editors to be handed advisory roles, similar to that which Enniful now faces, as a token way of sparing them humiliation, but still nudging them outside the lines. Whether a promotion or demotion, Enniful’s replacement will be coming into the scene as a “Head of Content” and not an editor. As such, in reality, or just nominally, the whole Vogue world seems to be blurring into one complete entity headed by Anna Wintour, as the culturally individual vogue branches seem to be amalgamating. Whilst Enniful’s final dance was gloriously diverse, and a sharp distilled image of what the British Vogue of 2023 ought to be, it is left hanging in mid-air whether this forward thinking approach will continue amidst all these structural changes. A brilliant performance, and a brilliant production, but one which marks a some form of a goodbye to Enniful, and somewhat of a lament for a culturally independent British Vogue.
Written by Hebe Street from GLITCH Magazine
Edited by GLITCH Team