(NEW YORK) W’s multitasking style and fashion director, Edward Enninful, kicked off his career at i-D at the tender age of 18 and hasn’t stopped since. Along with his day job at W, he’s one of the most in-demand stylists in the biz. Now, about that tweet …
BY ALEXANDRA ILYASHOV
You recently tweeted that racism was the reason for your second-row seat in Paris. Care to elaborate?
It was very personal. If you are a minority, the things that hurt are very personal to you. I dealt with it and with the people involved. I think you can sit and scream and shout about racism all you want, but my actions speak louder than words. I work with models of all colors all the time.
Moving on. How’d you get your first job?
I decided I didn’t want to carry on at school, so Nick Knight introduced me to Terry Jones, who owned i-D, and I began assisting there in 1991. I was 18 when the fashion editor left, and I was given the position.
What was life like as an 18-year-old fashion editor?
It was crazy! I grew up knowing Kate Moss and that whole generation of British image-makers. We were big on customizing our clothes and trying to outdo each other. I left i-D to freelance.
How did you land at Vogue Italia?
I worked with Craig McDean a lot, when he was Nick Knight’s assistant. He got booked by Italian Vogue and he asked me to do a story with him. Franca liked what we did, and she ended up giving me multiple stories.
What type of boss was Franca?
She was quite amazing. I was just a kid and I’d get to call her and go through my ideas. She’d ask me who I wanted to work with, and then she’d tell me to just go do it. She had so much trust in me and let me do things I’d only dreamt about. It was pretty much like working for Stefano. Stefano comes from the school of Franca: When Stefano trusts you, he trusts.
Why did you hop the pond to Vogue?
One day out of the blue, I got a call from Anna Wintour’s office, so I went to New York to meet her.
What was that like?
Nerve-racking! I was wide-eyed and innocent—I had to laugh. She asked me what photographers I liked to work with; I remember that much. I went into the meeting thinking, “I am never going to get this job, but I am going to have fun at the interview!”
What lured you over to W?
I got a call from Stefano—he was building his new team. Coming from i-D, I’d always felt that W was sort of its American version. It felt like the perfect blend of the artistic and the commercial.
What’s it like to work with Stefano?
His work style is a lot like mine: calm and level-headed.
It always looks like you and Stefano have a blast in the front row! Why?
Stefano sees a funny side to life. He doesn’t take anything too seriously; everything is with a pinch of salt.
What are the highlights of the fashion calendar for you?
Oh, God! You’re going to get me into trouble. There are too many to mention, but I always look forward to seeing what Marc, Proenza, Alex Wang, Miuccia, Junya Watanabe, and Yohji Yamamoto have up their sleeves.
Which W shoots have been standouts thus far?
One of my favorite stories is the “Good Kate, Bad Kate” cover. We played around with the idea of angelic Kate and bad Kate. I also loved the fake-ad story I did with Steven Meisel, and the one I did with Mert and Marcus, about proportions.
How are you still able to style ad shoots while working at W?
When I joined W, I gave up 90 percent of my outside work. So, the few that I do aren’t a conflict of interest.
How’d you whittle down to just a tenth of your ad work?
I have to be very selective! If I get a call from people like Steven Meisel, Craig McDean, Mert and Marcus, or Steven Klein, I’m always going to do something to help.
Who are your fashion-biz pals?
Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. I’m very lucky to have held on to some great friendships.
How did you meet Kate?
She was 14 years old, and I was 16. We met at a casting for Pepe Jeans in London. She got the job and I didn’t! When I’m with Kate, I just can’t stop laughing. That’s how funny she is. Everything that comes out of her mouth! It’s like she’s doing stand-up. She’s very, very good at impressions.
Do you ever request specific impersonations?
I can’t say who…
Does she impersonate you?
I’m sure she does. I’m very easy to impersonate.
What about Naomi?
Naomi is mischievous. When we’re on a shoot, at some point in the day, Naomi’s feet will hurt and I’ll have to give her a foot massage. Naomi remembers everyone’s name from when she was 16 years old, whether it’s an assistant or someone from hair and makeup. She’s got an elephant’s memory! It’s incredible.
Is there anyone you haven’t worked with?
There is indeed one I haven’t worked with: Christy Turlington. We’re friends but haven’t worked together. That’s one that I am really looking forward to shooting.
Do you like living in NYC?
I spent my teens and 20s on planes back and forth across the Atlantic. Being settled is a real joy.
Are you a jaded flier?
Oh, God, no! I’m a nervous traveler! One hit of turbulence and I’m screaming on the plane.
What do you do on the plane?
I watch TV! I’m a real TV junkie. Girls, Breaking Bad, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Homeland…you name it, I’ll watch it. Those are the moments I’m really peaceful and on my own. It’s a kind of meditation.
Have you ever had a cameo on any TV show?
I’ve been asked by a few reality shows, model shows, and fashion shows, but I’m always a little nervous. I think I was born to be behind the set, and I’m happy with that.
Could anyone coax you onto the small screen?
Naomi has a TV program, The Face, so if she asks, I don’t think I’ll be able to say no to her.