Edward Enninful has ended his British Vogue reign with a spectacular nod to 40 of his greatest hits. On Thursday, the outlet revealed the farewell cover of the soon-to-be former editor-in-chief’s final issue as he steps down from his historic role and Chioma Nnadi takes over.
Enninful’s appointment at British Vogue made him the first man and the first Black editor to hold the title. To cap his tenure after six and a half years as head of editorial content, Enninful gathered 40 former cover stars for a class picture — if one’s class was lucky enough to include supermodels Naomi Campbell and Iman, tennis champion Serena Williams, media mogul and former daytime talk show host Oprah Winfrey and fashion designer Victoria Beckham — photographed by Steven Meisel.
“It was clear to all of us on the team that no one woman could or should encapsulate these past few years for the magazine. What we needed was a group, to lean into the power of the collective to bring to life what I hope has been a daring, disruptive and evolutionary period in Vogue‘s history,” Enninful wrote of the brainstorming that went into the cover shoot. “They also – by dint of extraordinary impact, force of personality, style and influence – needed to have reached beyond fashion and culture to change the fabric of society in the 2020s, in ways small and large and always positive.”
“It has been a truly magnificent chapter for me personally here at British Vogue but it was apparent on set that day that it was the togetherness, community and teamwork that we cherished the most,” he added. “And now? Well it’s the excitement of whatever this thrilling and unchartered decade has in store next isn’t it. For all of us.”
According to a video shared on the magazine’s Instagram page and YouTube page, the group was assembled at a New York studio. Each of the women wears a simple black or white outfit, a seemingly uniform approach that actually emphasizes how Enninful’s approach to fashion has always been entwined with a thoughtfulness for diversity and inclusivity that includes race, ethnicity, age, size and gender identity. The 40 models are only a small sample of how Enninful worked to broaden British Vogue‘s idea of beauty.
The cover includes several significant callbacks to Enninful’s career highlights, such as model and activist Adwoa Aboah, who was featured in Enninful’s debut December 2017 issue, Laverne Cox, who became the first trans person to appear on British Vogue‘s cover for its September 2019 issue, and Paloma Elsesser, who previously fronted the outlet’s size-inclusive special issue in April 2023 under the tagline “The new supers,” alongside Precious Lee.
In the editor’s farewell letter, Enninful writes: “Never be too wedded to the past, and absolutely never let the wrong voices in your head. I still recall, during my early tenure here in 2017, brainstorming my first issues, when a senior company staffer said these words to me: ‘Diversity equals downmarket.’ I was shocked, of course, but also genuinely confused,” he continues. “Were people really so… what’s a non-confrontational phrase I can reach for here? Shall we go with ‘close-minded’? Or were there – are there – still people unable to see the world for how it truly is?”
“Nearly seven years on and I feel so proud of the team here in London and all of the changes we have made together. When my first cover came out — featuring Adwoa Aboah, a Black model and activist, leading a roster of British names with a spectrum of different identities — it was seen as a shock to the system. Non-white cover stars had been viewed for so long as commercial nonstarters (this magazine had been a key offender, in fact),” Enninful writes. “How ridiculous, I thought. And so it proved. Our first cover was a hit and by September of the following year, I remember standing in a newsagent and seeing almost all of the covers on all of the fashion magazines featuring Black and brown women.”
Later he writes, “Fashion is never immune to the tumult of life, and sometimes our job was to bring a little levity, beauty and distraction to bear. At other times, I hope we weren’t afraid to engage with the issues society was facing head on… Though, when all is said and done, you know who I will miss most of all? You, our readers. The passionate and supportive community that become the new Vogue audience is unlike any other in the world, and it drove me every step of the way.”
As Enninful steps into a new position as Vogue‘s global creative and cultural advisor, Nnadi takes over as head of editorial content, rather than editor-in-chief. She is the first Black woman to take the role.
See the full feature in the March issue of British Vogue, available via digital download and on newsstands Feb. 13.
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