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Edward Enninful’s autobiography “A Visible Man” – Review

May 19, 2024

Edward Enninful’s autobiography, A Visible Man, has been immensely popular, making it to the highest reaches of the best seller list. It’s not surprising, given that he was the British Vogue Editor. But his position doesn’t necessarily mean that he has interesting stories to tell – well, maybe in private, but perhaps he can’t publish the gossip and scandal and funny things that happen with the models and celebrities he works with. Not if he wants to keep working with them. Perhaps he’ll save all that for his retirement – if he ever does retire. So wisely, he stayed away from all that, picked a good ghostwriter who can write with personality, and gone for a “Succeeding in the Fashion World While Black” angle.


Many people who received their issue of Vogue in December 2017, which had a beautiful, 1970s styled Adwoa Aboah on the cover, and looked very different from the issues that had gone before, had not heard of Edward Enninful. Before his appointment at UK Vogue, he had actually been in the Vogue world as a stylist, working at Vogue Italia. And, as he makes clear in the book, he is very close to Ronnie Cooke Newhouse. She happens to be married to Jonathan Newhouse, Head of Condé Nast International, which is Vogue’s publisher. So the appointment wasn’t such a surprise to him as it was to the rest of the world.

Adwoa Aboah

Adwoa Aboah.
LOVE Magazine, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Edward Enninful’s autobiography

There has never been a male editor of Vogue before. There hasn’t been a Black editor, either. And Enninful is gay, although there are certainly many, many LGBTQIA people in the fashion world, including a few Vogue editors, so he isn’t the first. But this is the title he received by the press on his appointment: a black gay man offering a radical shakeup for the title. And this is exactly what he has done.


As revealed in the book, he is on an explicit mission to represent Black beauty more widely. He combined that with his own 1970s styling aesthetic to give us a magazine that looks very different. Less successfully, I feel, and clearly coming from editorial discussions, he also represents other races in his pages, and runs features with a feminist or LGBTQIA lens. They seem like an afterthought. I don’t think Enninful is much bothered about the position of women or gay people. But he is very, very driven in presenting Blackness.

Great Once You’ve got Through the Name-Dropping

Try to get through the introduction of Edward Enninful’s autobiography and you’ll find an interesting book. Some incompetent editor has asked that he stuff as many celebrity names in as early as possible, and thus is an awkwardly inserted story about Rihanna arriving late to his wedding. She bursts in through the doors just at the “Does anyone have any objection?” line, of course. “Classic Rih,” he faux-chortles, emphasising that he knows the singer well enough to call her that. However, this doesn’t entirely set the tone for the book.


Beginning at the beginning, he takes us through his childhood in Ghana. It cannot be a rags-to-riches tale, as he had a middle class upbringing, with his father, Crosby, a Major in the Ghanaian army and his mother, Grace, a fashion designer with her own business. As a child he used to help her out during fittings. There are very affectionate portraits of his siblings, Luther, Kenneth, Mina and Akua. He adores his talented mother, and is afraid of his strict father, who is often away on army business. He was, he says, a shy child, and is still a shy person, which has been interpreted as hauteur or frostiness.

Edward Enninful’s autobiography – the story of a refugee’s rise

During a period of unrest in Ghana he emigrated to England, settling in Ladbroke Grove. Drawn to fashion, he became a well-dressed club habitué. At the age of sixteen, he was scouted as a model. This gave him an insight into how the British fashion world worked. The stylists began to consult him on how he would wear the clothes he was posing in. This is how he started styling shoots himself. He worked for iD Magazine, writing as well as styling, and at eighteen became its editor. From there his career flew.


Although Enninful never gossips about his famous friend’s foibles and problems, he doesn’t shy away from mentioning his own. His is open about his early drug use and later alcoholism. He also details some terrible times with sickle cell disease and a devastatingly worrying eye condition. And although he is the type of person who is naturally extremely driven, he admits that he puts work first to the detriment of relationships. He breaks up with a boyfriend, Alec, over this.

Distanced from his Birth Family

Edward Enninful’s autobiography explains how his connection with his birth family was partially severed when his disappointed father threw him out of the house on learning he was not, in fact, leaving the house every morning to go to college to train as a lawyer but actually doing fashion work instead. He greatly regrets not staying in better touch with his mother, in particular, who never rejected him. However his sister, Akua, does reject him, for disappearing and not looking after his mother well enough.


Eventually his father and sister both accompany him to Buckingham Palace to collect his OBE for Services to Fashion, along with Alec, who is now his husband, all having made up in the mean time. Alec’s mother is also there, and Enninful rather sweetly has a Philip Treacy hat made for her and Akua. As is for some reason Naomi Campbell. Perhaps Enninful felt his entourage was not sufficiently glamorous, perhaps, being Naomi, she insisted on gatecrashing.


He does hold both Naomi and Kate Moss in high esteem. One of the only additional fashion world tidbits I gleamed from this is that Kate Moss is great fun, can hold a whole room captivated, and loves to sing and dance in front of said whole room. And that she is generally late, but that’s something I knew already. And he LOVES Rihanna, who supported him when he was ill.

Edward Enninful’s autobiography – informative

This is an interesting book, I read it in a day. Not one of fashion’s major tomes, but great for people starting out in the fashion world to see something of what it’s really like.