Soft-spoken and understated, W fashion director Edward Enninful has long been a quiet but powerful force in the fashion industry. Born in Ghana and raised in London, he started his modeling career at 16 when he was spotted on a train by stylist Simon Foxton. He quickly started picking up styling jobs at i-D magazine, where he was named fashion director at the tender age of 18. Later, he became a contributing editor at both the Italian and American editions of Vogue, where he freelanced for the past decade (you might also recognize him as the Jamba Juice-sipping character from The September Issue). In April, Enninful replaced Alex White as W's style director, and his official debut issue was well-received when it hit newsstands in September. We spoke with the editor just before fashion week about his personal style (black pants, white shirt, every day), his favorite shopping partners (Kate and Naomi, of course), and how he keeps his cool in an industry governed by extremes.
Do you find that you dress differently now that you're living in New York full-time?
I always dress the same. I’ve dressed the same since I was seventeen. It’s black pants, white shirt, suit jacket. My style has always remained consistent.
What made you choose that uniform?
I’m not really defined by how I dress. I think my job is to project a vision onto a person. I don’t need to be dressed to the hilt to do that. It’s more important for me to project onto another person than to project onto myself. The way I dress sort of keeps me out of the way, and frees up my mind to focus other people.
What do you feel most proud of from your tenure at W so far?
The whole September issue. It’s my first issue, and it came together so well, the mixture of established photographers and writers and young talent. My goal is always to create something that seems new, and I think that’s why W hired me. I like to mix the old, the new, the avant-garde with the mainstream.
I saw that you shot a Galliano piece in a story in your September issue with Amber Valetta, "One for the Ages." Did that feel risky, to shoot one of his pieces?
It was a really beautiful dress, a silk kimono with fox fur cuffs, and it really suited the character in that spread, which was a woman in the 1930s. It wouldn’t have mattered if it were Galliano or Gucci or Prada, you know, it just suited the look. I’m a stylist and an editor, not a politician. I shoot what works for the picture.
Are there any trends that you can’t wait to see go away?
We’ve got to retire the leather leggings. I don’t find them flattering. Personally, for me, a woman in leather leggings is not my kind of woman. They’ve been around forever, and there’s been so many different incantations of them. I just think we need a little break.
You have a reputation for remaining very calm and cool-headed at all times. How do you manage to do it?
I’ve always been quite even-keeled anyway; but, for me, it’s better to approach a situation with a clear head than to be run by whims. So, I always try to stay grounded. I do lots of yoga—Bikram yoga. And, even though I’ve been involved in the fashion industry since I was 17, I think it’s very important to have a life outside the industry. I have a great family and great friends, and I do have other interests outside of fashion.
Do you have any fashion week coping mechanisms?
Yeah, I run every morning down the river, normally at 5:30 a.m. That’s very important to me.
That's really early. Do you go out at night?
I go to dinner, but I don’t go to clubs or anything like that. My partying days are long over. And I’ll have one coffee in the morning and that can last me the whole day. My weakness is more sweets than coffee. I’m always trying to curb my sweet tooth.
You started your career as a model. How did that shape your relationship to the industry?
It taught me a really important thing: that your subject is the most important person in the picture. You always have to start with a person. Being a model, I really learned that you need to start with a real sense of a person before you move on with a photographer and a location and all that sort of thing when you're doing a shoot.
What was the first designer item that you bought yourself?
When I was growing up in London, there was a designer called Katharine Hamnett, and she would make these t-shirts, and I bought one that said, “No Nukes Is Good Nukes.” And, oh my God, I thought I was so stylish at the time.
Any standby shopping partners?
I go shopping with Kate Moss sometimes, and Naomi Campbell, just as friends. They drag me and I don’t really have a choice. With Kate, we’ll do lots of vintage shopping, wherever we are in the world; and with Naomi, somehow we always wind up in Alaia.
Who’s your fashion icon?
David Bowie! I just love what he represented, and his whole way of dressing. He wasn’t scared to experiment. He wore everything from white suits to sailor pants to crisp suits. He really inspired by notion of fashion from a young age. I got to work with him a couple of years ago and, when we first met, he said, ‘I was looking through your book, and there were all these pictures in it that I thought were me.’ And I was so flattered!