When Edward Enninful took over the reins at British Vogue, we knew that big things were in store. Of the 10 issues he’s produced since becoming editor-in-chief, five have featured women of color, already marking his tenure as the first black man to hold the position one of inclusion and positive change. Supermodel Adwoa Aboah covered his first issue, followed by actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and most recently, the incomparable Oprah.
But for his first fall fashion issue, Enninful knew he wanted to make an indelible impact—and in the process, he’s made history. By choosing multi-hyphenate Rihanna to be his cover girl, for the first time in the publication’s 102-year history, British Vogue’s famed September issue will feature a black woman on its cover.
As Enninful explained in his monthly editor’s letter:
As you know, September issues are important in the fashion world, our largest and most lavish of the year and a real statement about what the coming months will bring. With this one being my first as editor-in-chief, I was determined it would be something special.
To shoot the cover, Enninful chose famed photographer Nick Knight, whom he credits with remaining “perfectly cool,” regardless of his requests. “Let’s do flowers in the hair.” “Let’s do thin eyebrows,” he writes of his many ideas for Rih’s lush 1920's-inspired look, which Enninful styled himself, dressing the star in fashions by Prada, Alexander McQueen, Loewe, Gianvito Rossi and a dress literally made of flowers by Noir Kei Ninomiya at Dover Street Market, worn over a lace bodysuit by Savage x Fenty, of course (Rih’s makeup was also exclusively Fenty Beauty).
Of course, this news comes hot on the heels of the announcement of Beyoncé as the cover star of American Vogue’s September issue, for which she recruited the first black cover photographer in the magazine’s history, 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell.
From the looks of it, Rihanna had ample input of her own on the fall fashion cover, remaining, as always, an active collaborator in her imaging. The Vogue UK cameras captured her in conference with Enninful, discussing what would become an iconic first for both creatives.
The resulting “Big Fashion Issue” is, by all appearances, a thing of beauty that we can’t wait to get our hands on (collector’s item, anyone?). And as for the history-making cover? Enninful says:
I always knew it had to be Rihanna. A fearless music-industry icon and businesswoman, when it comes to that potent mix of fashion and celebrity, nobody does it quite like her. No matter how haute the styling goes, or experimental the mood, you never lose her in the imagery. She is always Rihanna. There’s a lesson for us all in that. Whichever way you choose to dress the new season, take a leaf out of her book and be yourself.