Vestoj's Anja Aronowsky Cronberg on Bridging Theory and Fashion

Vestoj's Anja Aronowsky Cronberg on Bridging Theory and Fashion

V talks with Anja Aronowsky Cronberg about the inception of her independent, theory-driven fashion publication.

V talks with Anja Aronowsky Cronberg about the inception of her independent, theory-driven fashion publication.

Text: Christina Cacouris

In an era that's seen the proliferation of magazines and online publications, there are seemingly endless platforms to talk about fashion: but you'd be hard pressed to find ones dedicated to the theory behind it. Enter Vestoj (pronounced vest-oy), the independent publication that many were curiously drawn to following that explosive Lucinda Chambers interview. Vestoj's slogan, "The platform for critical thinking on fashion," is exactly that — a unique spot where the meanings, not just the looks, are dissected in an ad-less, print and digital magazine. V spoke with founder and Editor-in-Chief Anja Aronowsky Cronberg about why she created Vestoj, and how her work can serve to show how other independent fashion publications can succeed.

What prompted Vestoj’s inception?

"When I was at university, I was introduced to critical thinking as a discipline and I learned about how it could be applied to understanding the arts in a different way. I came across some academic journals about fashion that were eye opening. Though fashion studies was immensely nourishing for me, I also often struggled with the academic texts. The language was quite hermetic, and I quickly got distracted and bored because it was too dense. So, I started to think about how I could present or communicate the research that is out there, that is important and valuable and interesting, in a way that is more approachable to the general cultured, educated reader who isn’t an academic. That was an idea I sat with for a while throughout my first job, until I figured that instead of just thinking about it, I should just do it. And I learned how to, through actually making it."

You have an editorial advisory board with the likes of Tim Blanks, Valerie Steele, and Hamish Bowles. How did they get involved?

"The editorial advisory board is common in scholarly journals and it's a construct that I always felt would be useful for a platform like Vestoj, trying to bridge theory and practice. The idea is to keep the board roughly half-half, with people from academia and the fashion industry. Each advisor takes part in a way that suits him or her at any given time: some have contributed through writing or interviews, some have provided financial help and others are helpful when it comes to bouncing ideas around a certain topic."

Each issue of Vestoj has a theme, but you’re not driven by seasons; how do you decide on thematics?

"It’s like asking where inspiration comes from. It has to do with some kind of zeitgeist, [or] maybe just a mood. I did the second issue on magic, just because I stumbled upon a bookshop in London that dealt with magic and alternative religions, and I thought: there are a lot of correlations between fashion and magic, and the more I thought about it the more connections I found. And then there are other themes like failure, that I feel in engaging with my peers in the fashion industry. It’s extremely difficult to admit to failure, [and] certainly in fashion, which is so focused on surface and glamour and on appearances. There’s a lot of anxiety hidden beneath our glamorous façades."

An academic discourse and context to discuss fashion like though Vestoj helps promote the idea that fashion is indeed an art form. Why are people so reluctant to call fashion art?

“There is this hierarchy of the arts, where fine arts is perceived to be at the top because we still have this romantic idea of a creator or an artist somehow being separate from the rest of us. Fashion, probably because of its associating with femininity, or maybe because of its associating with commerce, is viewed as towards the bottom of the pyramid. But people within the fashion world do more to uphold that hierarchy than people in the arts; the way designers almost bow down or defer to artists as inspiration, it’s like we are saying ourselves: it’s only fashion."

What do you find interesting about fashion?

“We have this really binary way of looking at fashion — it’s either all serious or it’s all frivolous. Ultimately, anything that we can produce can be both at the same time. It can be silly and serious, or it can be superficial and profound. To me, that’s what makes fashion really interesting, that is has those aspects that seem very throwaway, that are so associated with appearances or surface, or that seem so ridiculous. But even [that is] something to take seriously, because anything that a human being produces whether it’s sacred or profane says something about who we are, and that’s what I find so fascinating about fashion.”

What do you want people to take away from Vestoj, or what do you want to say to people interested in starting their own fashion publication?

"To say fashion doesn’t have to revolve around news, it doesn’t have to revolve around celebrity, it doesn’t have to revolve even around the image. You can also engage with fashion through language. You can also engage with it through theory — and by the way, theory doesn’t have to be scary! Theory can also be storytelling. Theory can also be investigative. So many magazines are trying to do the same thing — feature the same famous people, talk about the same thing at the same time in a very similar way. It goes beyond whether a magazine is your typical glossy mainstream or an indie publication; ultimately the differences are so marginal that at some point they don’t even matter that much. My work should prove that you can do something that is marginal and is niche but still has a voice and finds its readers."

Credits: PHOTO COURTESY OF @ELEMENTV

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