Edward Enninful has recalled how his first edition of British Vogue had been a “love letter to Great Britain”, despite facing racist backlash over his appointment to the role.
The stylist and editor said his “manifesto” had been to create a magazine that was “inclusive and about diversity, where every woman will see themselves”.
Enninful was confirmed as editor-in-chief of British Vogue in April 2017, making him the first black editor-in-chief of the magazine.
In 2020 he was also appointed the editorial director of Vogue in Europe.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, he told host Lauren Laverne how he had been surprised by the racist comments directed at him after landing the UK position.
“I thought I’m going back home (to the UK). I’d been living in America for a while, I’m going back home, they’re going to love me,” he said.
He said that on the contrary, he had been referred to as “the cat that got into Crufts” as though “I was another breed altogether”.
Despite this, Enninful said he felt a gratitude towards the UK and tried to reflect it in his first edition of British Vogue, which came out in November 2017.
“It was a love letter to the country that took my family in, the country that literally gave me a life. So my first issue of course was a love letter to Great Britain,” he said.
It was a love letter to the country that took my family in, the country that literally gave me a life. So my first issue of course was a love letter to Great Britain.Edward Enninful
On displaying diversity in the magazine he continued: “I remember sort of looking around at my friends and seeing that they weren’t reflected in the magazine.
“When I say my friends, I mean, people of different races, religions… social economic background, size, age, they weren’t in the magazine.
“And for me, I just thought that’s not even good business, so I just wanted to create a magazine that was inclusive and a magazine that was about diversity, where every woman will see themselves.
“And that was it that was really the manifesto I had.”
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Enninful said that he had believed he would be “fired in three months” for his change of direction but “would rather (have been) fired for what I believed in”.
“I just really just wanted to show how incredible women were in all different guises,” he said.
However, despite his success at the helm of the prestigious fashion magazine, he continued to face racism – including a recent incident at Vogue House, where he was mistakenly redirected to the building’s loading bay.
Enninful later shared the story on Twitter.
“It was ok, because it keeps me grounded,” he said. “That moment was very crucial to let the world know that I do still face this, but I will do something about it.”
Elsewhere in the interview he discussed his parents, telling Laverne how his mother had inspired his initial love of fashion and how, after her death, he had seen a different side to his father.
The full interview with Edward Enninful on Desert Island Discs will air on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds on Sunday at 11am.