British Vogue Breaks Its Promise
Last year, when British Vogue appointed its first black male editor, the fashion world was abuzz with talk of a new direction for the magazine. Edward Enninful, formerly of I-D and W magazines, promised a fresh approach that would focus on inclusivity and diversity. His first cover girl in his new job was mixed-race British model and feminist activist Adwoa Aboah.
It's a strikingly beautiful cover, shot by Steven Meisel, but Aboah doesn't look black to the untrained eye, and the styling is an obvious throwback to the seventies. The following cover, in January, featured Taylor Swift. If Taylor Swift represents anything, it is commerce. Who wants to see her on British Vogue? What is the message?
Enninful wants to reach out to a younger audience, which is great, but it seems like a dubious move to feature the famously shallow and non-political Taylor Swift in his second issue. Then, in February, the magazine featured Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman, both blonde and blue eyed, next to a cover line blaring, "Why We Need to Talk about Race."
That cover looked like satire but nope. It got a startled and negative response on social media, where Enninful is said to be particularly adept. After all, the first thing he did upon getting the new job was to launch a Vogue Snapchat account. So what's up then? Is he just tone-deaf or is he trying to piss us off?
Now we come to the newest Enninful cover for March, featuring a nude portrait of Gigi and Bella Hadid. The sisters are entwined, covering their erogenous zones, so only a prude would be offended by the nudity. The backlash to this image has already erupted, but why focus on the nudity? I want to focus on the choice of the Hadid Sisters. Naked or clothed, why are they stalking us? Shouldn't British Vogue be a safe place for people who love fashion but don't love Instagram celebrities?
This photo is just icky on all levels. The Twittosphere is clamoring about the use of Photoshop distorting the girls' faces but that's the least of my problems with it. Why get a new editor to lower the tone of British Vogue? Enninful and Meisel are both known for "pushing the envelope" but this is just a crass grab at controversy. It's clearly a bad time to flaunt images of naked young women so maybe it's meant to show Vogue's independent spirit.
Or maybe Edward Enninful is not the change we needed. He loves to surround himself with celebrities, by all accounts, and was recently photographed walking arm in arm with Terry Richardson. Asked about Richardson in an interview, Enninful said:
I mean, I worked with Terry in the 1990s, the last time was probably 1998, we haven’t worked together for 20-something years. I’ve read the articles. The photographers I work with are incredibly kind and generous, things like that do not happen on my set.
That's nice, but a little too evasive when it comes to Richardson, who has been called the Harvey Weinstein of the fashion world.Enninful has purged the British Vogue office of its previous editor's protégées, naming a roster of his model friends as new contributors. He apparently wanted to rid the place of posh "Sloanes" who don't
reflect his working class background. But perhaps he should have kept some old-timers, who might have offered a moderating influence.
The British Vogue change in regime should provoke questions like, Do we want our fashion mags to be woke, or do we just want to see gorgeous models in fantasy clothes that we can't afford? Do we want fashion to be political, and if so, how do we effect change as consumers?
I wish the nude Hadid Sisters issue wouldn't be a blockbuster, but it's as futile as wishing for a Gucci dress in size 16. The more things change, they more they don't, I guess. At least with Anna Wintour, she's not promising things she won't deliver. In the case of Edward Enninful, it seems that the Emperor is as naked as poor Gigi and Bella.
What do you think, Miistas?