BLISS OF DIVERSITY

Words by Mariyah Zaman

Feb. 26, 2021

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A visual ode to Edward Enninful

 

Immigrants and refugees on front covers, firsts for Black women, the young and the old, mothers modeling with their children, one size shown to not fit all. Edward Enninful has his finger on the pulse of representation. Two years into his role as editor-in-chief at British Vogue and Enninful has already ignited a spark of hope for inclusivity in fashion. 

 

It is without question that his approach to industry doesn’t see diversity as a phenomenon, but rather as what should be the norm.  In a feature with Vogue, Enninful made it clear that;

 

“Diversity for me is not just about skin colour but of perspectives. It should be part of the language of the magazine always. That’s just what the world is.”

 

Most notably, May 2018’s British Vogue issue displayed just that. Photographed by Craig McDean, a vibrant cover featuring nine “models changing the face of fashion” turned the spotlight on size, race and religion. Featuring the likes of Halima Aden, Adut Akech, Faretta Radic, Paloma Elsesser and many more figureheads known for uplifting other women and asserting their identity, all from different backgrounds and walks of life. 

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In this issue of Al-Naeem, in an ode to Enninful’s work, Editor-in-Chief Asma Elmi proves how the impact of a mainstream campaign embodying representation has had on her and the upcoming models featured in the shoot. Upon asking her what motivated the vision for a ‘bliss of diversity’, Elmi commented on her view of the industry as it stands; 

 

“By seeing the lack of diversity in the fashion industry and wanting to show that there’s so many people that need to be represented not only just across the world but even in Cardiff, that’s what I hoped to achieve. Everybody doesn’t look the same.” 

 

Behind the glossy images of the young females captured in these stills were a whole experience that turned a diverse room full of strangers into a family of women empowering and embracing one another’s differences. In conversation with some of the models, each of them shared their experience of being part of a diversity shoot for the first time. 

 

“Everyone felt involved, the concept needs to be believable and not just forced.” Sara expressed after speaking on how the photo shoot wasn’t just for a colourful picture but rather was a raw and fun bonding session that became a family in the matter of hours. 

 

The models nodded in agreement when relating the experience of how intimidating it felt at first to take part in a group photo shoot for the first time, let alone amongst women of different sizes and attitudes to dress. 

Sara spoke about the initial impression she had after working with Hijab-wearing model, Arwa and the apprehension of judgement between a modest and non-modest dresser. 

 

“I remember that I was the first one that had to get ready and I had to wear this leopard print dress. Because it showed a little more skin than the others, I felt a little wary at first as I wasn’t sure how it would be received – thinking if it needed a jacket especially being around someone like Arwa who dresses more modestly. When I came out of my changing cubicle I found it really surprising that Arwa was one of the first to boost my confidence telling me how much I slayed and how good I looked. I found it really cool how despite the differences in how we dress, she really rooted for me and I was accepted.”

 

Asking the models how this shoot contrasted with their previous modelling experience working in industry, Anu explained how as a darker-skinned model, 

 

“something as little as not having to bring my own shade of foundation to the shoot, and the make-up artist actually having my tone was so refreshing.” 

 

Echoing Enninful’s views about diversity not just being about skin, Arwa passionately expressed how that “inclusivity and diversity doesn’t mean just black and white models. We are on a cultural level now, just like how Asma included a Caucasian, an Eastern European, an Arab, an African, a Eurasian and Mediterranean models. Diversity extends past just two extreme skin tones.”

 

In agreement with one another the models said that if it’s possible for a group of upcoming models and stylists to create an inclusive environment both off-camera and on-camera, simply by asking the needs of others then it’s perfectly doable for industry to follow suit. 

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Photography Alfie Reddy

Videography  Tom Hughes

Stylist Asma Elmi 

Words by Mariyah Zaman