British Vogue originated as a spin-off of the American edition (earning the affectionate nickname "Brogue" from its employees) in 1916 in order to counter war-related overseas shipping restrictions that made the further export of Vogue US impossible. Under the guidance of its brilliant editors, Vogue UK has evolved into the iconic fashion magazine we know today.
Following Elspeth Champcommunal (1916-1922), Dorothy Todd (1922-1926), Alison Settle (1926-1934), and Betty Penrose (1935-1939), Audrey Withers was appointed editor-in-chief in 1940. She successfully steered the magazine through the challenging war years, facing continued bombings and severe paper shortages. With her no-nonsense approach, she even made her staff take their typewriters with them during air-raid alarms so that they could continue to work in the basement. After Withers's retirement in 1960 and Alisa Garland's rather short stint as editor-in-chief (she opted to leave Vogue for Woman’s Journal), Beatrix Miller took the reins in 1964.
Miller significantly shaped the careers of groundbreaking photographers such as David Bailey and Snowdon and translated the progressive vibe of the Swinging Sixties into the pages of Vogue. She also addressed societal issues, broadening the magazine's scope in the 1970s. After her retirement in 1984, Anna Wintour became editor-in-chief and brought with her a further shift of the magazine reflecting the changing needs of modern women settling into the business world. Wintour left in 1987 to take over House & Garden and in 1988 American Vogue. Liz Tilberis was appointed the new editor-in-chief of Vogue UK and not only increased the magazine's circulation and commercial success, but was also loved and respected for her warmth and social skills. In 1992, she was lured over to the US to take the reins at Harper's Bazaar, which she did with enormous success and in a glamorous head-to-head race with Anna Wintour's Vogue. Tilberis passed away after a long battle with ovarian cancer in 1999.
From 1992 to 2017, Alexandra Shulman held the position as the editor-in-chief of Vogue UK for a record-breaking 25 years. Under her leadership, British Vogue's circulation increased by more than a million readers. Shulman played a pivotal role in challenging traditional beauty standards and promoting diversity within the pages of British Vogue. In the early 1990s, the magazine drew criticism for photos promoting the waifish "heroin chic" look that allegedly contributed to the rise of anorexia in young women. Shulman famously denied any correlation: "Not many people have actually said to me that they have looked at my magazine and decided to become anorexic." In the 2000s, she openly criticized major fashion houses for their "minuscule" sample sizes, highlighting the need for healthier body representations.
Edward Enninful took over as the editor-in-chief from 2017 to 2023 and successfully navigated British Vogue through times of digital transformation and societal change.