• Entertainment
  • fashion

Naomi Campbell and Edward Enninful on Diversity In Fashion and the Rise of the ‘Instagirls’

6 minute read

There are few names that have as much clout in the fashion industry as supermodel Naomi Campbell and fashion editor and stylist Edward Enninful. Working together for nearly three decades, the duo has delivered some of the most iconic images in fashion and broken barriers with respect to diversity and representation along the way. (Enninful was recently awarded an OBE for his “services to diversity within the fashion industry.”) Their bond extends past just photo shoots and collaboration; they consider each other family, even referring to each other as “brother” and “sister.”

To celebrate Enninful’s 25 years in the fashion industry, Beats by Dre teamed up with him, as well as photographer and filmmaker Nick Knight, to create a fashion film that would celebrate the fusion of fashion and technology. What resulted was “The Seven Deadly Sins of Edward Enninful,” a colorful look at the seven deadly sins as curated by the man himself. The short film features eight (two were required for gluttony, of course) of Enninful’s supermodel muses depicting a different sin, from Kate Moss to Jourdan Dunn.

Of course, Campbell features prominently into the mix, appearing not just as “Pride,” but as “Black Pride.”

“Some roles I knew right away. Black pride—there was really only one person that could capture that and that was Naomi,” says Enninful of the film’s casting.

To celebrate the release of Enninful’s new collaboration, TIME spoke with the two fashion titans.

Edward, you’ve worked in fashion for 25 years; Naomi, for 30 years—how have you seen the industry change since you started?

Edward Enninful: It’s definitely faster. When I started out, it was a lot smaller. It moves a lot faster now because of the internet, information — everything is so broad now. Everything is so available. But I’m going with it. I take what I want from it. I’m very open.

Naomi Campbell: It’s much faster. The designers have many more collections in a short space of time, much more pressure, much more corporate. The creativity period and process time is very shorter. It worries me because my friends in the industry, the designers, the producers, the writers and editors, are under so much pressure.

Clothes in, clothes out. Consumers are buying it at a faster rate. The turnover is faster. They want instant gratification and that’s what people are trying to deliver and it’s hard. You’re able to do that with social media.

Your careers predate social media, but the models starting their careers now—”Instagirls,” if you will—can build their careers on a social following. How does that affect your job now?

Enninful: Social media is fine, depending on how you use it. You can use it to keep track of what’s going on in the industry, in other industries. I feel like when it comes to the models, certain models are now like commodities in certain ways. They’ve flipped the industry on its head. You know if you book Gigi [Hadid] or Kendall [Jenner], they’re coming with all these followers, so it changes the game.

Before you were booking the models for the brand, now they know what they’re bringing you so it’s changed the modeling industry and the fashion industry a bit. But generally, I love social media.

Campbell: I’m happy with the way I did my career, I wouldn’t change it in a million years. I got to do the real grafting and learning from real models when I was younger—how to open up a jacket, walk, and such. I think it’s always good to learn a craft from scratch the real way, so that you’ve learned it from the basis, the raw bones, and then you have that to fall back on. I personally wouldn’t want it any other way.

The respect from the people in the industry that matter is important to me and I do think I have that. No one can take that away from me. Nothing’s ever come easy to me and nothing ever will and that’s okay. I’m used to that. I go with the challenges. I roll with the punches. We’re survivors.

You’ve both been integral to bringing more diversity into the industry. What kind of progress would you like to see in the future?

Enninful: If you put one model in a show or in an ad campaign, that doesn’t solve the problem. We need teachers in universities, we need internships, we need people of different ethnic backgrounds in all parts of the industry. That really is the solution, you have to change it from the inside.

Campbell: For me, it never stops. It’s not a fight, it’s a conversation—constantly reminding people that diversity is beautiful and that there should be diversity and equal opportunity. It never stops because you say it and they say that they listen, and it seems to take two steps backwards.


Your film focuses on the seven deadly sins, Edward. Is there a sin that you identify with the most? And what’s your favorite vice to indulge in?

Enninful: I think I identify with all of them. I’ve been guilty of all of them at one time or another. I think everyone is guilty of all of them. I couldn’t pick just one. They are what they are. For a vice — probably chocolate?

Campbell: I have a sweet tooth — chocolate, English chocolate. I do like a banana pudding every once in a while. Sweets, spice, definitely spice, everyone knows I love spice.

What’s the best life lesson you’ve learned from working in fashion?

Campbell: Learn from my mistakes.

Enninful: I’m still learning!

Campbell: [laughs] I’m a work in progress.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com