There has been plenty of talk about diversity in the fashion industry over the past few years, yet we are still seeing a huge disparity in terms of people of color, differently-abled people, plus-size bodies and older models in major campaigns on the runway, and being hired as the face of a label or brand. Bu the lack of diversity doesn’t end there.
In the fashion magazine world, which has a powerful impact on the industry as well as a trickle-down effect into every-day society and trends, there is also plenty of room to improve. Diversity must begin in the boardroom or in the decision-making positions that can amplify different voices and make more room for inclusive visual representations.
So when we came across a viral Twitter “moment” from September about British Vogue’s new hires, it was something we had to write about. Edward Enninful was appointed the magazine’s editor in August, and is the first black person to hold this position. He is clearly not wasting the opportunity to ensure the staff around him are also diverse, as he promised to do so when hired.
What also gave this issue a major signal boost was supermodel Naomi Campbell sharing her disappointment of the lack of any people of color in a photo of the 55 staff members under previous editor Alexandra Schulman.
“Looking forward to an inclusive and diverse staff now that @edward_enninful is the editor,” she wrote on Instagram.
The Twitter moment outlined a list of the diverse hires under Edward, which include the supermodel herself as a contributing editor. Model Adwoa Aboah will also be a contributing editor, along with ’12 Years A Slave’ director Steve McQueen.
As reported by The Cut, one of the biggest appointments was Pat McGrath as beauty editor who will be joined by Val Garland, Sam McKnight, Guido Palau, and Charlotte Tilbury. Pat is a British make-up artist, but not just any artist. She has been called the most influential make-up artist in the world by Vogue.
Edward has appointed Vanessa Kingori, MBE, as publisher of the newly revamped mag, who was previously at British GQ. About his new staff, Edward said they are “all inspirational and highly-regarded in their individual fields, I’m really excited to see my vision for the British Vogue team come to fruition.”
Before he was hired, he spoke to TIME in 2016 explaining why change in the industry and diversity is important, and how it’s not just a fashion issue, either.
“If you put one model in a show or in an ad campaign, that doesn’t solve the problem. We need teachers in universities, we need internships, we need people of different ethnic backgrounds in all parts of the industry. That really is the solution; you have to change it from the inside,” he said.
Naomi Campbell, who he has worked with for many years, was also part of the same interview and shared her thoughts on diversity, an issue she has been very vocal about.
“For me, it never stops. It’s not a fight, it’s a conversation—constantly reminding people that diversity is beautiful and that there should be diversity and equal opportunity. It never stops because you say it and they say that they listen, and it seems to take two steps backwards,” she said.
British commentator Edward Adoo told BBC news that hiring Edward Enninful was a very progressive and timely move.
“I think Edward Enninful is a step in the right direction. He’s black, he’s gay and he reaches out to different people, and I think that’s what’s needed,” he said.
It is important to see a major publication like British Vogue taking the lead in this way, but it should also be noted they are not the only magazine (large or small) or online publication seeing more diverse hires being appointed. In 2016 it was announced Teen Vogue had hired Elaine Welteroth as the new editor. She was already the first African-American beauty director since 2012, and her promotion made her only the second Black editor at large in the history of Condé Nast.
Elaine has been credited with turning Teen Vogue into a “woke” magazine where it is now common to read in-depth political articles alongside fashion and style pieces.
US-based feminist magazine and online publication Wear Your Voice, which was founded by British-Indian woman Ravneet Vohra, recently made history by hiring a trans woman as their new editor-in-chief. Ashlee Marie Preston is an activist and writer who told Out.com she wants to change the landscape of media in terms of how normally marginalized voices are represented.
“My objective is to transform the traditional media landscape while redefining social norms and dispelling myths associated with feminism. Growing up I felt underrepresented in mainstream media. I knew that someday I was going to change that by holding space for those that felt as I did. As women, those of color, and LGBTQ people, we’re often silenced while others speak as experts on our experiences. No one can tell our stories better than we can. The work WYV is doing is revolutionary because we are reserving space for diverse communities to tell their own stories,” she said.
The more we see diversity behind the scenes in the media, in positions of leadership and influence that have the ability to create change, the more we will see it on screen, on runways, in campaigns, on billboards and so on. We’re excited to see the future of British Vogue and the impact Edward Enninful and his team will have on fashion and style culture.