In an interview with NPR, editor-in-chief of British Vogue, Edward Enninful discusses his Ghanian heritage, his mother's influence and his career thus far.
When asked about growing up in his mother's clothing studio in Ghana and how African fashion information much of his creative decision making, Enninful said, "My mother had an atelier, about 40 seamstresses, so there was almost like a huge room in the bungalow and the seamstresses were all around sewing. And my mum would be in another room. If you know African fabrics, you know the colors. African women love to dress. There is no dressing down with African women. So I was my mother's assistant. I'll be sketching with her. I'll be literally zipping women into sort of corseted dresses. I'll be playing with eyelets and I was transformed by what my mother showed me, what those days showed me, and when people talk about today and inclusivity and diversity, I just knew from a young age that, really, beauty for me started with curvy women.
"I remember when my mom always loved nipped in waists, always like big sleeves, three layered sleeves and ... three layered peplums, [in] African wax prints. And all I remember were those headscarves that would literally touch the sky, and the skirts were always really, really tight, so the women always hobbled along. But it was all about accentuating a woman's curves, not hiding them. So it was like an hourglass. And I remember those beautiful, beautiful prints — oranges, greens, greens mixed with oranges, yellows mixed with browns, sort of unexpected colors, which even to this day, when I'm putting colors together, people always said, "Oh, that's a weird combination," but it works.
On the importance of empathy in fashion
When asked about the importance of empathy in the fashion world, the editor-in-chief said, "When I'm working with Rihanna or Beyoncé or an incredible icon, I know from even a little expression on their face if they're comfortable or even a little wiggle of discomfort. I notice all those things because of my mother's studio and studying what made a woman feel really comfortable and really feel at her best.
"Had I not been around my mum, soaking in women and the beauty of women, I probably wouldn't have that sensitivity. And really, when I picked up those early days was empathy. ... You have to be able to feel what somebody is feeling because, I always say clothing — it's not just clothing, it's armor. It's how you want the world to see you when you leave your house, it's how you want to be perceived. So a lot goes into it. So you have to really have empathy as a designer, as a stylist towards women, women's bodies and essentially how they feel."