Diversity. Inclusion. Representation. These three words have lingered in the fashion world in the past few years as social media and outspoken insiders like Naomi Campbell have demanded that the industry better reflect its buyers and consumers. Minority leaders in the fashion industry are not as numerous as their white counterparts. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why fashion editorials, runways, and campaigns continue to appear racially homogeneous.
This imbalance does not excuse the slow movement to fix this disparity. To diversify the industry overall, the institution itself seeks diversification to reflect its audience. The fashion world certainly has motivation enough to make major strides towards diversification: the industry already deals with the continuous criticism of its exclusive nature, and according to the Harvard Business Review, diversity yields innovation and market growth (Hewlett, Marshall, Sherbin 2013).
Consumers are finally viewing a pivotal period in the industry in which companies and publications alike are taking more initiative than their usual, weak effort of adding one or two more black models to its runway lineup. In particular, the appointments of Elaine Welteroth of Teen Vogue and Edward Enninful OBE of British Vogue represent this shift towards ethnic visibility in leadership.
Elaine Welteroth made headlines with her promotion in leadership at Teen Vogue back in 2016. Her newest role as editor marked the second time in publisher Condé Nast’s history that an African-American held a position of that stature. With her rise in the ranks, Welteroth illustrated her commitment to making Teen Vogue a more inclusive, welcoming space for its readers. Her first issue as editor featured the widely acclaimed “Cultural Appreciation” editorial in which ethnic models represented their ethnic heritage. It may sound elementary, but it had widely positive reception because it deviated from the norm of “cultural” fashion shoots (i.e., white-passing models wearing dreadlocks, bindis, kimonos, you name it). In addition, Welteroth chose to expand Teen Vogue’s content to the political sphere with its highly praised coverage of the 2016 presidential election. The editor, along with her senior staff, asserted that teen girls are multifaceted individuals who can admire fashion and care about what’s going on in society at the same time. Her efforts have led to a remarkable increase in readership for the magazine online and her latest promotion to sole editor-in-chief. Welteroth’s leadership of the magazine into topics of diversity and politics, and the demonstrated success of this foray by signs of audiences gobbling up content, shows just how much diversifying the executive roles in the fashion industry can create positive change.
Across the pond, British Vogue latched onto the momentum of diversity with its latest appointment for editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful. This appointment came as no surprise: for the past twenty-one years, Enninful has demonstrated his remarkable eye for good taste and non-traditional style. The renowned international fashion stylist and fashion contributor hailing from Ghana got his start in the industry at just 19-years-old as a fashion director for the British publication, i-D. Though he was the youngest ever to hold this position at i-D, he worked with a striking grace and poise that catapulted him to the level of industry elite. Through his unique lens for edgy elegance, the fashion director revolutionized British grunge wear in the early ‘90s and set out to make high fashion and editorials more physically inclusive. Switching over to Italian and American Vogue offered him a larger platform to showcase his talents and continue his efforts to diversify the fashion industry. Enninful’s groundbreaking “Black Issue” featured only black models, including Naomi Campbell and Alek Wek. As a recent recipient of the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his work to diversify the fashion industry, Enninful stands to make waves in his newest position at British Vogue.
Welteroth and Enninful join the prestigious ranks of industry favorites like renowned, former Vogue Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley, in their efforts to increase representation and inclusivity in the fashion world. Both editors are ones to watch for as they set a remarkable tone for the fashion industry to diversify moving forward.