What is your earliest memory?
Being with my mother in her atelier. She was a seamstress. Seeing her make clothes for women of all ages and sizes, women from all different kinds of religious backgrounds in Ghana. I got my love of women and beauty, in all its various forms, from her.
Who was or still is your mentor?
The stylist Simon Foxton discovered me on the train as a 16-year-old on my way to college, and started me as a model. He introduced me to the fashion world, a world of wonder and mystery that I’d never imagined existed outside of my little African household.
How fit are you?
I go to a boxing gym in London, and I’m obsessed with something called a Versaclimber. It’s a vertical machine that you stand on and grab on to, and it imitates you climbing. It’s very, very tough, and I would say I’m moderately fit, because I can do that for 45 minutes, five days a week.
Tell me about an animal you have loved.
Ru, my Boston terrier, came into my life, and I learnt what it would feel like if I was a parent. I’m a dogfather! Aside from my husband, Ru is the centre of my life. He’s so fun and smart and sensitive.
Risk or caution, which has defined your life more?
Risk. From day one, I wanted to address the issue of diversity. Every magazine I’ve worked at, where they’ve said women of colour don’t sell, I’ve pushed women of colour. Every magazine where they’ve said women of a certain age shouldn’t be on magazine covers . . . I put Judi Dench on the cover of British Vogue. I’ve put women with hijabs on the cover. Without risk, the job I do is not worth it. You can’t move forward without risk.
What trait do you find most irritating in others?
Entitlement. Talking down to people you don’t think are powerful. Assuming the whole world should bend to you because you have status.
What trait do you find most irritating in yourself?
I have pushed myself so hard, at the expense of my health. I’m addressing that now. I’ve realised I have to put back in.
What drives you on?
The need for change. The need to use fashion to make the world an inclusive place for people who have been “othered”, people who are seen as not the norm, whether it’s people of a certain age, face, religion, sexuality. The need for acceptance for anyone who feels ignored or invisible.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
When I lost my mother, a friend told me that to have your mother on the other side is the strongest guardian angel you can have. Since she died, I do feel she’s somewhere. So in that context, I must believe in the afterlife.
Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent absence?
The frequent absence. There are so many horrors going on in the world that people choose to ignore.
Name your favourite river.
The Thames. I have so many happy memories of parties on boats, walks with friends along the bank, the beautiful bridges.
What would you have done differently?
I would have looked after my health more. Apart from that, I’m happy with every single thing.
Edward Enninful is editor-in-chief of British Vogue. His memoir “A Visible Man” is published by Bloomsbury
Source: Financial Times