Books

To Edward Enninful, Fashion is ‘Borderless’

A VISIBLE MAN: A Memoir, by Edward Enninful

In the five years since Edward Enninful became the editor-in-chief of British Vogue, a pattern has emerged: Whenever a new issue of the magazine comes out, it instantly becomes a part of the zeitgest — the cover often goes viral, and the inside images are shared and re-shared across social media.

That’s true whether the cover is graced by a celebrity like Beyonce, Rihanna or Billie Eilish; or by a new generation of dark-skinned African models; or whether the issue is guest-edited by Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex. Since 2017, British Vogue has become the fashion magazine that cannot be missed. This is thanks to Enninful.

Aside from his monthly editor’s letter and the glimpses he offers to 1.3 million followers on Instagram, Enninful’s memoir, “A Visible Man,” is the first in-depth telling of his life story.

He walks readers from his childhood in the coastal city of Tema, Ghana — where he fell in love with clothes while watching his seamstress mother build a successful dressmaking business — to his teenage years modeling in London, to becoming the youngest-ever fashion director at i-D Magazine at just 18, to his role today as one of the most important figures shaping fashion, media and culture.

The joy Enninful describes feeling while flipping through Ebony, Jet and Time magazines at his aunt’s hair salon in Tema (“it was a big deal in Ghana to get American magazines”) inspires nostalgia for the days when getting your hands on a glossy issue was a thrill. And his memories of 1980s London will make readers wish they could go back in time and walk down the streets of Ladbroke Grove with the shy young Edward.

Black readers specifically — British, American, Ghanian or otherwise — will find Enninful’s experiences of racism relatable. On his first solo trip to Paris Fashion Week, when “I was still technically underage,” he had the chance to visit the offices of his favorite designer, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. Afterward, however, he was stopped by police officers on the Place Vendôme, and asked to show his papers. He was the only Black person in the square, and the only one asked to prove that he had a right to be where he was. “I went from a dauphin to a street rat in a split-second,” he writes.

He reveals what went through his mind at Haute Couture Week in 2013, when “two designers tried to seat me, and only me, in the second row, while my white colleagues, all fashion directors like myself, were in front.” He pulled out his phone and tweeted about it. The post was re-tweeted by the Black supermodels Naomi Campbell and Joan Smalls, among others.

Enninful does not shy away from naming his famous friends. In the preface, he recalls a 2020 stroll with Idris Elba, who urged him to write a memoir about “not what I had come through, but where I had arrived at.” A pregnant Rihanna arrives late to his 2022 wedding to his longtime partner, Alec Maxwell, bursting through the doors in a black lace dress at the exact moment the minister asked if anyone objected to the marriage (“classic Rih”). But it rarely feels like he is name-dropping just for the sake of it. Rather, he credits figures like Elba (“who, like me, grew up in an African household in the heart of London”), Rihanna, Campbell and Kate Moss with having stood by him during the highs and lows of his life.

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Chicago

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Chicago

Done with your summer reading list? Our latest roundup includes a biography of Dostoyevsky’s second wife, a history of law-breaking animals and the story of a dysfunctional Chinese immigrant family in small-town Wisconsin.

Here are six new paperbacks we recommend this week →

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Chicago

THE GAMBLER WIFE: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky, by Andrew D. Kaufman

This comprehensive biography of Anna Dostoyevskaya covers her first encounter with Dostoyevsky as a young stenographer, their poor and often agonized marriage and her later success as his steadfast publisher.

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Chicago

FUZZ: When Nature Breaks the Law, by Mary Roach

Roach’s exploration of monkey catchers, killer trees and more is guided by a boundless curiosity and a desire to illuminate the places where humanity and wildlife collide, making for an “idiosyncratic” and “ever-probing” tour, as our reviewer, Vicki Constantine Croke, wrote.

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Chicago

THE FAMILY CHAO, by Lan Samantha Chang

Chang’s third novel, an engrossing and darkly comedic take on “The Brothers Karamazov,” tells a focused and highly readable story about the fortunes of a dysfunctional Chinese immigrant family splintered by the murder of its patriarch, a man disliked by just about everyone in his small Wisconsin town.

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Chicago

SULTANA’S DREAM AND PADMARAG, by Rokeya Hossain, translated by Barnita Bagchi

This book presents Hossain’s classic sci-fi utopian novel, first published in 1905, imagining a world where women and science rule and men are relegated to domestic life. It also includes the Bengali author’s novella about a women-run school and welfare center.

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Chicago

CONFRONTING CAPITALISM: How the World Works and How to Change It, by Vivek Chibber

In this slim but mighty account, a social theorist tackles the issues of global inequality, extreme wealth and rampant corruption in democratic countries, while explaining the structures of international capitalism and how the world can move toward a more equitable future.

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Chicago

THE WOMEN OF TROY, by Pat Barker

The second installment of Barker’s feminist retelling of “The Iliad” is once again narrated by Briseis, a captive Trojan queen, as she struggles to survive and plot her revenge after the fall of Troy. Our Historical Fiction columnist, Alida Becker, noted that, along with Barker’s outrage, her “insight and compassion are on full display.”

Published on August 26.

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