It’s not everyday you get to sit down with a fashion icon like Edward Enninful, W Magazine’s fashion and style director. Enninful’s career spans twenty-five years in the fashion industry, and his touch – quite literally – turns everything to gold.
Its no surprise that Beats by Dr. Dre placed Enninful at the helm for a fashion and music inspired short film (which premiered on the Beat billboard in Times Square on January 29th, and is being released worldwide this weekend) entitled, The Seven Deadly Sins of Edward Enninful. A celebration of Enniful’s twenty-five years in the industry – during which he has consistently blown us away by creating some of the most powerful and exciting images in fashion – the film features models such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, who Enninful cites as having been major inspirations throughout his career. He chatted with us on everything from the future of publishing and the power of the image, to American pancakes…
TNP: From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
Edward Enninful: Food…Oh my God, (laughs) my favorite thing in the world. Okay, I might just give you three so I don’t seem like a glutton — one of the seven deadly sins. Pancakes in the morning — American pancakes, because I grew up in England where we never had pancakes, so for me eating pancakes is always a treat. That would be good, if I could, but of course, there’s always my diet. Lunch at Sant Ambroeus SoHo. They have this lentil salad that I have every single time I’m there. Dinner would be at EN Brasserie – I love it to death. They have this fried chicken. It’s the best fried chicken I’ve ever had in my life. So that’s that.
TNP: How did this film project come to be?
EE: You know, I’ve always been a fan of Beats by Dre, and I’ve always been a fan of Doctor Dre from way back. They’re so accomplished in sound — they’re the best in sound — and I’ve always wanted to do a project that combined fashion, sound, and emotion. So a year and a half ago I was approached by them and it was my 25th anniversary in the fashion industry. I’m such a part of the modern world, that I wanted to do something that was about now and the future. At the same time, I was told that Beats had rented the biggest billboard in Times Square, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do something moving for that billboard?’ My work is normally on the pages of a magazine or in an ad, so I just thought, to be able to see it out there on such a scale would be very different and amazing. Plus, being an English person and coming to New York for the first time when I was seventeen, Times Square for me is — I remember standing there and thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is New York.’ For me it’s the crossroads of the world. If you’re a New Yorker you probably take it for granted, but when you’re from Europe, it’s like, ‘Oh my God.’ I have friends who still come and go straight to Times Square.
Then, on another level, I wanted to do something that was a tribute to my muses — women who have inspired me my whole career. Going back to Kate [Moss] and Naomi [Campbell], and then Karlie Kloss and Jourdan Dunn, Karen Elson, Mariacarla [Boscono], Lara Stone, and then the newest baby Anna Ewers, who I love — giving back something to them, because these women are not just models, they literally provide me with so much inspiration. So I thought, ‘Why don’t I do something like the seven deadly sins?’ — which is such a biblical concept, but applied to the digital world today — you know, things like trolling, which is like envy, and pride, and selfie obsessions — putting it in the context of today. And the one person who I thought could capture this amazingly was my mentor Nick Knight, who I met twenty-five years ago when his stylist rode with me on a train — so it’s a full circle. And the brilliant thing about Beats was that they gave me carte blanche. There were no restrictions. And to be able to have that is pretty incredible.
TNP: How do you feel like music plays into what you do in your creative process?
EE: I’m always talking about the times we live in. The best fashion moments have always been attached to music. You go back to Elvis Presley and rock ’n’ roll, David Bowie and new romantics…I wanted to do something that did bring fashion and sound together, but in a new way. Even the stories I do always have an undercurrent of musical influences when you look – always. It’s very, very important for me.
TNP: How do you personally define good content?
EE: Good content, for me, is something that keeps me interested, something that keeps me excited, and something that provides me with discovery.
TNP: Do you feel like now there’s too much content out there?
EE: There’s a lot of content out there. Your generation is different from my generation. In my generation we had a few magazines, and now there’s so much content. But I also think you have the freedom to choose what you want to take in — what you want to take on board. I choose who I want to follow on Instagram; I choose what blogs I want to visit. You have choice, which is the great thing.
TNP: What’s your creative process like? What inspires you?
EE: In terms of W Magazine and what I do there, I always talk about reflection, projection, and documentation. Reflecting is looking back at old movies or things that happened years ago, and using them to create something for today. Projection…looking around the world now and trying to create some kind of idea of what’s to come. Finally, documentation is just what you’re wearing, what you’re seeing, what you’re eating. Reflection, projection, documentation — that’s always stayed with me, as just my little way of seeing the world really.
TNP: Do you prefer to photography in print or online?
EE: I think photography has a great place online. I don’t really believe in this print versus digital. I’ve been around long enough to know that good imagery is good imagery. If you have a great product or a great magazine, like W Magazine, then your digital just enhances that. I’m a big fan of both. I think photography can live on both, and that was one of the reasons why I wanted to challenge myself with this project. It’s a mixture of film, photography, and 3D, as you’ll see.
TNP: Do you feel like the mediums that are available to us now challenge us more as artists, or do you think they make it harder sometimes to tune out all the noise?
EE: I think it challenges us, because there’s so much around. You have to find your own way in this world. There’s so much content that whatever you say has to be honest. People can also tell when things are not so honest, I think.
TNP: Is there a dinner from early on in your career that you remember sitting at the table and just being like, ‘Oh my God I can’t believe I’m here. I’ve made it.’
EE: Oh my God. I think that will have to be— it always goes back to one of my best friends, Naomi Campbell — her fortieth birthday in St. Tropez. I remember sitting there with old friends, like Ellen von Unwerth who I hadn’t seen in ages, celebrities like J.Lo, and my close friends who are not in the public eye. I remember sitting there and thinking, ‘Wow.’ Only Naomi can provide you with a moment like that. One of those ‘Wow, I can’t even believe what my life has become’ moments. Definitely Naomi’s fortieth birthday dinner in Cannes.
TNP: Do you see similarities between food and fashion?
EE: I love food. Food and fashion, my God! That’s a question I haven’t thought about in a while. They’re both delicious; they’re both satisfying. I think about food in terms of emotion. I always connect food with emotions, and fashion with emotions.
TNP: Where do you see the future of the magazine industry in twenty years?
EE: I think great magazines will be around — enhanced by their digital platform. If you have a good product, people will always want that product. I really believe that, and I’ve been around long enough to really, really believe that. Artists have survived every decade, no matter what was going on. I think print will be there, but it will be supported by its digital counterparts, and vice versa — out of digital platforms will come magazines. [The world] is changing for the better.
TNP: It’s impossible to predict where everything’s going to go.
EE: But, are you excited?
TNP: Very excited.
EE: I’m so excited. I love the future, and I love now.
*Edward Enninful, photographed in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann.