Vestoj has nestled in the industry as a game-changer, with its erudite approach to analysing fashion theory and its connection to society. A must-have for everyone in the fashion arena, I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet with editor-in-chief Anja Aronowsky Cronberg at the Institut Néerlandais in Paris.
Cronberg calls it a fashion journal, although Vestoj (meaning clothing Esperanto) exists somewhere between a book, a magazine and a journal with its compact layout and traditional book sleeve. Published annually, she embodies various roles when it comes to the formation of the sartorial journal. Working from her apartment, one of Cronberg’s most important roles is to bridge academia and industry throughout the narratives portrayed. Equally important is the richness in visuals free from advertisement as a mandatory rule. This being one of the rules the reader can revert to in the annual’s manifesto, which includes a list of ten commandments that the publication must respect and adhere to. A particular and highly invigorating approach to providing an insightful publication with intellectual stamina in combination with a tongue-in-cheek approach. In this day and age, a rarity when it comes to fashion publications who are often succumbed to an overwhelming range of advertisement and trend-driven deliverables.
A field that has become conflicted and scrutinised, Fashion still requires participation in order to receive validation by those who seek to do things differently. Cronberg agrees with this, as she states that it is of importance who circles in her network and vice versa. An example is her advisory board that includes the likes of editor of American vogue, Hamish Bowles and Dr. Valerie Steele, from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Cronberg admits that by merely mentioning a prestigious name that is connected to Vestoj, has opened up a lot of doors for the publication. Proving that in order to change the rules, one must play the game. Cronberg adds that attending the fashion shows and being seen as an integrated participator acknowledges one’s position in the Fashion world. When she first moved to Paris in 2009, to start Vestoj, she felt the isolation of someone who is not part of this bubble. Having been rejected various times at the entrance of fashion shows, Cronberg had to climb up the fashion ladder and prove herself. However, she remains clear on moving away from the pretentiousness the fashion system can often become and aims to keep Vestoj honest and free from publicity pressures.
Vestoj challenges a field in which fashion magazines suffer from an ‘inferiority complex’. These magazines seem to often validate fashion in connection with other fields, as opposed to allowing fashion to stand alone in its own right. The sartorial annual offers this gateway by focusing on the theory and practice side of it, connecting it to
themes that wouldn’t directly be associated to Fashion per se. This allows for a visual and literal exploration, allowing the content of each issue to become its own. Cronberg’s intentions are for it to be a periodical that can be picked up on over time without losing its cogency. The writing stays free from scholar jargon, which makes it approachable to those who do not necessarily relate it to Fashion academia. In addition, it has also turned into a platform, in which Cronberg allocates events in which the contributors can participate in talks and exchanges with an audience. In this way, the relevancy of a journal that only gets released once a year becomes more relatable.
The most recent publication incorporates the theme Slowness, relating to fashion and the politics of time. Cronberg brings out the example of a Cistercian monk who is seen sitting in a white cloak that is purposely made to prevent from hurrying, designed with slowness in mind. She accounts that the content of the stories reflect a very personal approach, and talks about incorporating the philosophy of dress in relation to time. As she herself says, ‘slow and steady wins the race’. The publication touches on the term style, and how it can easily be forgotten even when in the moment one cannot live without it. Fashion continuously battles to be ever present and in the now, however the past always trails behind. The newest edition of Vestoj emphasises that slowness is about placing importance on the journey, rather than the destination.
Vestoj’s critical analysis of Fashion and Dress proves that Fashion can indeed be taken seriously, without having to rely on other disciplines or advertisement. However, as the fourth point in the journal’s manifesto states, one must always keep a sense of humour about it. Cronberg is happy to say she now gets invited to the fashion shows in Paris.