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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Book review of A Visible Man by Edward Enninful

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Fashion can tell powerful stories. Anyone who’s seen The Devil Wears Prada and memorized Miranda Priestly’s iconic cerulean blue monologue knows that clothes aren’t just strips of fabric; they’re tools of alchemy, malleable pieces of living history. For Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue and the magazine’s European editorial director, fashion is a sacred language learned through equal parts struggle and dazzling triumph.

In Enninful’s debut memoir, A Visible Man, the creative juggernaut peels back the onion-skin layers of his meteoric rise to international success. Born in the port city of Takoradi in Ghana, Enninful immigrated to the United Kingdom with his family in the 1980s. They settled in Ladbroke Grove, London, where 13-year-old Enninful began to cultivate his innate sense of personal style and a budding fluency in the visual arts.

Enninful’s ascension into the upper echelons of fashion is practically a modern fairy tale. The men’s fashion director at the British magazine i-D recruited 16-year-old Enninful for modeling after a chance meeting on the Tube. At 18, Enninful became the youngest person at any international fashion publication to hold the role of fashion director. It was a monumental opportunity that was promptly followed by parental disapproval. Enninful’s father, who had assumed his son was an obedient follower of African cultural traditions, kicked his son out of the house. In response, Enninful dove headfirst into the hustle and grind of i-D, propelled by his unquenchable thirst for all things beauty and glamor.

In many ways, Enninful’s crash course in style education at i-D paved the way like a yellow brick road. In 2014, he was awarded the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Creator award. In 2016, he was made a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to diversity in fashion. By 2017, Enninful had earned the crown jewel of his impressive resume: He was appointed the first Black editor-in-chief of British Vogue.

However, these soaring highs often competed with disheartening lows, such as the death of his beloved mother, a series of major surgeries to correct exacerbated eyesight problems and his field’s persistent racism. The fashion industry is founded on aspirational whiteness and shaped by arbitrary exclusivity; marginalized identities are nonexistent at worst and tokenized at best. Enninful, as a gay, working-class, Ghanaian British immigrant, doesn’t depict himself as a victim of these realities in A Visible Man, but he doesn’t deny or sanitize the industry’s institutional racism or the challenges of fighting for inclusivity.

Fashionistas and Vogue disciples will revel in this inside look at the fashion world and appreciate the author’s frank anecdotes about familiar members of the glitterati, but anyone who reads Enninful’s memoir will understand the importance of his professional and personal trajectory. A Visible Man is the culmination of blood, sweat, tears and limitless imagination.



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