I get asked this all the time – “What does a fashion magazine Editor-in-Chief actually do?” And the question came up again when social media went wild yesterday with congratulations for Edward Enninful, who was announced as the new Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue. Super models, photographers, other editors, and makeup artists led round after round of happy claps. But what will he actually do? a student asked me. Fair enough …

FYI – Fashion Director Edward Enninful will take over from departing editor Alexandra Schulman (25 years on the job) on August 1 at British Vogue. And, as a reminder, Emanuele Farneti took over at Vogue Italia when Franca Sozzani passed away earlier this year. (Interesting to note that both are men – rare at the helm of major women’s titles.)

One of my early Flare Editor-in-Chief photos in 2004, taken by George Pimentel

We see editors of the most prestigious brands, more often than not, sitting front row at fashion shows and walking red carpets. In reality, an influential editor like American Vogue’s Anna Wintour will have a bigger impact off the runway when she visits a designer’s studio and offers her opinion on a collection’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s where I think that a celebrated Fashion Director such as Enninful will have an even bigger influence than his former boss Anna. He has an amazing eye for what’s new and is known for his bold innovative fashion styling, and campaigns, including the recent “I Am an Immigrant.” Most editors don’t have that kind of creative clout, but you can bet that many designers will want Enninful’s expert eye.  

An Editor-in-Chief has to have a pulse on the creative side of the brand but without sacrificing running the business aspect and working with both the internal publisher and external advertisers. My eight plus years at Flare – a much smaller scale than Vogue obviously – were the most exciting and fulfilling years of my publishing career. I was thinking how much that role has changed in the five years since I moved on to the retail industry. Based on my experience, here are some of the most critical areas that an EIC would be responsible for:

First, you’ll notice I didn’t call Vogue a “magazine” – it’s a multi-platform brand. The printed magazine – still the most luxurious prestigious element – is now a small part of the overall brand. Today, an EIC should oversee everything that bears the name – from social media, apps, website – and more as platforms swiftly evolve. In some cases, digital and editorial are still separate departments which is a huge mistake. One team should work across all platforms so the message is consistent and strong. 

My first Editor-in-Chief photo for the March 2004 issue, by John van der Schilden

A critical part of the job is meeting with advertisers and working on integrated projects. The old hard line between church (editorial) and state (advertising) crumbled a long time ago – long before I left the industry. Today, an EIC will be expected to be even more involved including contributing creative ideas that advertisers can sponsor such as cover projects. It’s up to the EIC to ensure that the results appeal to the reader, and maintain the brand’s integrity, not just mimic an advertisement.

Most major brands are part of larger companies – and that means lots of layers of management aka bureaucracy. It’s up to the EIC to navigate this and keep their brand top of mind for senior executives. At Rogers, I was always looking for interesting ways to collaborate with the other publications and media properties. Being an active corporate citizen paid off in spades. 

The most important, and best part of the job, is bringing the vision of creative contributors to life – from freelance writers and photographers to staff editors. Enninful will excel at this and give British Vogue a much-needed face lift. The best (and smartest) contributors always forge a strong bond with the EIC even if they don’t often see each other often. I fully expect that the outpouring of affection on social media for Enninful will translate into some of British Vogue’s best creative work ever. I imagine that he will shake up the stale establishment and create imagery bursting with diversity and innovation. But he’ll also be tasked with growing British Vogue’s coffers – a challenge when most publishing brands are shrinking annually. 

I’m excited to see what Enninful will bring to British Vogue … and how his energy will light a fire under the other Vogue brands. His appointment is definitely one of 2017’s biggest fashion moments.