Based on the American version, British Vogue was launched in 1916 as a way to navigate importing restrictions in the UK and rising paper costs in the US. Inaugural editor-in-chief, Elspeth Champcommunal, had higher expectations for the publication; Elspeth believed it was important for Vogue to be more than a fashion magazine, featuring articles on news, sporting events, health and beauty, travel articles and editorials. Champcommunal went on to have an eponymous couture label based out of Paris and later took on the role of chief designer at Worth London.
Dorothy Todd - 1922-1926
British Vogue under Dorothy Todd was steered away from "hats and frocks" towards the modernist nature of the Twenties. Todd was passionate about blending fashion and the arts, shifting the magazine’s focus towards literature in her four years as editor-in-chief. Todd commissioned notable editorial pieces including poetry by Gertrude Stein, art criticism by Vanessa Bell and Clive Bell, essays by Virginia Woolf, and articles by Vita Sackville-West and Aldous Huxley. Owing to some of her dramatic changes, Vogue lost much of its circulation and Todd was eventually sacked from her position.
Alison Settle - 1926 - 1934
British Vogue is said not to have taken off until the appointment of Alison Settle as editor-in-chief, under American counterpart, Edna Woolman Chase. Settle expanded the magazine’s readership from aristocracy to middle- and working-class women, and bolstered the book of regular contributors to include notable names such as Edith Sitwell, Vita Sackville-West and Lee Miller. Following her departure from Vogue, Settle went on to write as fashion editor of The Observer and as a fashion columnist for The Lady before publishing her book, Fashion As A Career, in 1963.
Elizabeth Penrose - 1935-1939
At the time, British Vogue was still under the editorial control of American Vogue, in a parent/child format. After the dismissal of Alison Settle in 1934, Elizabeth "Betty" Penrose was sent from the American issue to steer the British edition away from its "excessively sprightly nature." In 1939, Penrose announced her return to the US and with the ensuing World War, she was unable to go back to Europe and continued her career at Vogue in the US.
Audrey Withers - 1940-1960
Audrey Withers began her career at British Vogue as a sub editor in 1931 and succeeded Penrose as editor-in-chief after her departure in 1939. Much like Todd, Withers’ penchant for literature and the arts saw the magazine leaning towards a broad spectrum of features: the title ran pieces on Bacon, Freud and Matisse, and Dylan Thomas, Bertrand Russell and Simone de Beauvoir all wrote for Vogue under Withers’ editorship.
Alisa Garland - 1960-1964
Alisa Garland, an affluent fashion writer, left her role as fashion editor at The Daily Mirror to lead British Vogue as editor-in-chief. Whilst successful, her four-year tenure was cut short when she left Vogue to helm Woman’s Journal, the most popular British women’s magazine at the time.
Beatrix Miller - 1964-1984
Beatrix Miller began her career at The Queen, moving through the ranks and leaving the title as fashion editor. She moved to New York to work as a copywriter for American Vogue, before being invited back to helm The Queen and then going on to become editor-in-chief of British Vogue in 1964. Beatrix - Miss Miller as she was known in the industry, or Bea to close friends - fostered the careers of many Vogue collaborators still synonymous with the magazine today, including David Bailey, Lord Snowdon, Grace Coddington, Lucinda Chambers, Terry Jones, Bruce Weber and Joan Juliet Buck, to name a few.
Anna Wintour - 1985-1987
After stints at Harper’s Bazaar, and Savvy magazine in the Seventies as a fashion editor in New York, Wintour returned to London to be appointed as British Vogue’s first creative director. Anna Wintour became editor-in-chief of British Vogue after Beatrix Miller’s retirement in 1984. After three years, Wintour returned to New York to take over House & Garden and later become editor-in-chief of American Vogue, and one of the most famous names in fashion.
Elizabeth Tilberis - 1988-1992
Elizabeth Tilberis, known professionally as Liz, started an internship at British Vogue in 1967 after the title held a contest. The then-editor Beatrix Miller recognised her hard work and promoted her to fashion assistant where her career really began. Tilberis was offered a position at Ralph Lauren in New York but turned it down after Anna Wintour asked her to become editor-in-chief of British Vogue upon Wintour’s return to the States. The magazine enjoyed a rise in circulation during her four-year tenure. In 1992, Tilberis was tempted over to the US to helm Harper’s Bazaar, where she revamped the title from dull and somewhat outdated, to the magazine we know today. Tilberis passed away in 1999 after her battle with ovarian cancer.
Alexandra Shulman - 1992-2017
Shulman began her career in journalism at Over-21 magazine, before joining Tatler in 1982 and working her way up to features editor over the next five years. In 1987, she joined the Sunday Telegraph as editor of the women’s pages and then moved to deputy edit their current-affairs/photo reportage based tabloid. She arrived at Vogue as features editor in 1988, before joining GQ as editor in February 1990. She took the helm at Vogue in 1992 and since then has steered the magazine through a period of great change.