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“Being a stylist sounds kind of trivial, but what he does is so much bigger than that,” says W editor-at-large Lynn Hirschberg, who has long admired Edward Enninful’s talents, his ability to create stories that push boundaries, even as he never deviates from an uncompromising sense of luxury.
It’s Enninful’s ability to exude grace under pressure, however, that makes Hirschberg a true fan. Consider the diva-esque behavior of a certain hip-hop star when W was shooting her for the cover of its November 2011 issue: “Nicki Minaj was a complete nightmare; people were dropping like flies,” Hirschberg tells Pret-a-Reporter. “But you would never know it to look at the pictures. Edward made it look seamless.”
At Tuesday night’s CLIO Image Awards, Hirschberg related the anecdote to an audience of industry heavyweights in the Grand Ballroom of The Plaza Hotel as she introduced Enninful, W’s celebrated fashion and style director, as the recipient of the Excellence in Commercial Styling Award. The inaugural award, presented by Pret-a-Reporter, recognizes the increased role a stylist plays in conceptualizing and executing layouts, with Hirschberg noting that Enninful’s contributions are unparalleled. “What stylists do for magazines these days is really create the picture; in the digital age photographers have a different role than they used to,” she notes. “Stylists are more and more important all the time, even with what you would consider non-fashion pictures, or portraits—no one used to have styling on a portrait, and now it’s mandatory. Edward is brilliant at finding the right fit for the right subject.”
On the red carpet prior to the ceremony, Enninful, who was accompanied by supermodels Karlie Kloss and Jourdan Dunn, discussed what the honor meant to him. “Whenever your peers deem you worthy, you can’t take that lightly. I was really humbled,” he says. And while some might demur when asked about favorites, Enninful indeed is able to conjure thoughts of layouts that continue to resonate. “In 25 years, that’s been a lot of stories,” he says with a laugh before mentioning July 2008’s Vogue Italia, a trailblazing issue featuring only black models, or the Steven Meisel-lensed “Makeover Madness,” which starred Linda Evangelista as a glamorous post-op plastic surgery patient, a story that appeared in Vogue Italia’s July 2005 issue. “I’ve also loved everything I’ve ever done for W,” he adds, pointing to the showgirl-themed layout featuring transgender model Carmen Carrera in W’s September 2013 issue.
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The CLIO Image Awards (owned by THR and Billboard’s parent company, Prometheus Global Media), now in just its second year as an extension of the famed accolades for the advertising industry, were created precisely to honor such groundbreaking work. Bravo’s Andy Cohen, who hosted the event, called the CLIO Image Awards “the foremost competition for advertising, design and communications in the style industry … the work you’ll see honored tonight represents the best of your craft.” This year’s Grand CLIO Image Award winners included Chloe’s fall/winter 2014 advertising campaign. Named Best Print Fashion Advertisement in the Prestige category, the campaign was produced by Laird+Partners and photographed by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. And with more than 15 million fan interactions, Calvin Klein’s “show yours. #mycalvins” won for Best Integrated Campaign.
Aside from Enninful, the evening’s other major honorees included legendary photographer Patrick Demarchelier (seen above), who received a standing ovation as he accepted the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. Amid the bounty of beautiful images Demarchelier has taken over the years, which has brought him the most joy? “My dog,” he says with a smile (indeed, among the iconic images showcased in the short film highlighting some of Demarchelier’s best-known work—from Charlize Theron for Dior and Scarlett Johansson for L’Oreal to portraits of Madonna and Princess Diana—there was Puffy, his beloved long-haired dachshund).
Heidi Klum also lent her star power to the evening, wearing a crystal-embellished dress from Thomas Wylde’s Fall 2015 collection as she accepted an honorary CLIO, presented by her longtime Project Runway co-host Tim Gunn. “It’s amazing to be in this industry for 20 years, especially as a model or television personality,” she says. “You never really think you can have that long of a lifespan, because normally a shelf life in this type of career can be very short.”
Ultimately, appreciating the career each has carved out seems a common trait among the 2015 honorees. “I feel very blessed; the most important thing at the end of the day is to always remember where you came from,” Klum says. “This world I’m in is all smoke and mirrors, you know?”
Enninful admits he feels just as fortunate. “We’re so lucky to have such a great team, and our success really starts at the top; Stefano Tonchi is a brilliant editor who loves to bring amazing people together,” he says. “Lynn and I are really encouraged by Stefano every day to not be scared and to push things a little further. When you’re allowed to realize your dreams, what more could you want?”
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