Diversity in mainstream fashion and beauty continues to be a hot topic but there’s still a long way to go before there’s a healthy balance. For now we should celebrate the little achievements such as the appointment of Edward Enninful as the Editor of British Vogue. Enninful’s appointment makes him not only the first black editor of Vogue but also the first gay man to head up a Vogue title. His first issue of the iconic fashion title hit the shelves last week and Enninful is back in news with regards to his involvement in the 2018 Pirelli calendar. Pirelli can always be relied upon to make a statement and their 2018 edition could well be their biggest statement yet. The calendar features an all black cast orchestrated by famed British fashion photographer Tim Walker and styled by Enninful. With a nod to Alice in Wonderland the cast includes Naomi Campbell, Whoopi Goldberg, Sean Coombs and Duckie Thot…
How did you become involved in the calendar project this year?
I got a call from Tim and he told me he was working on a project for Pirelli. He asked if I’d want to be involved and of course, it’s Pirelli, Tim Walker, it’s a no-brainer. So, I agreed, and then he told me what it was and I was totally blown away. It seemed like such a simple idea, the retelling of Alice in Wonderland with an all-black cast. That’s the beauty of Tim, only Tim will come up with something so incredible. So, from then, it was just almost like a passion project really, I was just so crazy about the idea.
And Tim’s worlds are all fantastical and mythical.
There were beautiful sketches and Tim just gives you the right words, it’s like ‘For Alice and the cast think 80s Japanese’, so I’m like ‘It’s all about shapes away from the body, big shoulders’ and everything sort of cinched, working with browns and trying to avoid certain colors. So, it was a magical journey, and this was Tim, but this was really an incredible one, I’m glad I was involved. I think that this retelling is perfect for the times we live in now, with what’s going on in the world and so much talk of diversity, it’s made Pirelli really a part of the conversation. That was another reason why I thought this partnership with Tim and Pirelli was so brilliant, this project is very much about the Zeitgeist.
Do you feel that sort of cohesive collaboration Shona and Tim when deciding on the outfits?
I collaborated on some of the outfits with Shona, because we had to create a world where the clothes had elements of costume but were still ingrained in the real world. When you look at, say, Puff, he had that amazing red suit, he had on his own pair of boots, Naomi had this cage with latex underneath; it was very important that everything also related to the world of today. The card people, they had sneakers on, so it was a nice dance between Shona and me.
That creative drive from the three of you was inspirational.
Whenever you’re on a shoot there’s always a search to find the image, and I felt Tim literally got the picture within the first 20 minutes. We discussed it afterwards, the search can sometimes take half a day, sometimes it can take the second day, but because this world was so incredibly thought out and detailed, the minute he put Alice in the cage he already had the picture, which is very rare.
Were you happy with the cast?
It was a dream to be able to meet some of my heroes, like Whoopi Goldberg, RuPaul and Puff, an incredible cast, and only Pirelli can pull these people together, I spoke to every single one and they all revere this calendar so much. You know, when Whoopi got the call she was like ‘Oh my god, me?’, everybody was so excited to be there. I remember at one point Puff was like ‘This is going to be the most incredible thing ever, whoever’s not here is going to be so upset or so jealous’. I felt like we were in a cocoon, a very intense one for a few days, and that’s when you get the best work I think, that intense concentration.
You said ‘I can’t just go in and throw clothes at a picture, I still have to have some kind of an idea of the character, of who she is, where she’s from. It’s almost like playing a child’s game, you have your dolls and you create characters for them, fashion indulged that in me’.
If I have a character the possibilities are endless, like Tim calling me to say ‘Alice, it’s a re-telling with a black cast’. Already I could see her, I could see her in all the scenarios and I can give more to an image if I have an idea of who the character is. It’s the most important thing for me, character before everything.
Duckie (Thot) was quite mesmerizing.
Duckie was mesmerizing, magical. Duckie has this sort of other-worldly quality, she kind of slips through your fingers, when she’s there she’s present but she’s also in another dimension almost, and that’s what makes the best stars. She was just incredible, she wasn’t ever phased, but she was always in character, always Alice. I remember Tim calling me to say, ‘Oh I’m thinking of this girl’. I just went ‘That’s going to be the one you’re going to want’ and the next day I get an email going ‘Oh my god, you were right’.
How important is it to dream in the world of today?
I still believe in the power of fantasy and creativity. I think more than ever with the state of the world we’re in now, there is a need for fantasy and dreams. There’s a need for escapism. There need to be people providing that against the daily grinds of the world, so more than ever now we need to dream.