There are few voices in fashion today that bridge critical thinking with cultural currency. Based in Paris, Anja Aronowsky Cronberg has been charting a path that advances her academic studies towards the type of discourse that freely explores substantive and necessary subjects across the industry. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Vestoj, an engaging, intellectual magazine about why we wear what we wear, and co-founder of Vestoj Co-op, a think-tank focused on fashion and material culture. Unsurprisingly, the anticipation has begun to build for her forthcoming book co-authored with Virgil Abloh, titled Work in Progress, to be published by One World / Penguin Random House.
In what ways do you see exploration as a natural part of the design process?
I’m a researcher and writer, so to me, exploration is a fundamental part of life and work in general. My own work is about (re)framing fashion – as art, as industry, and as daily practice – both as an important space for critical thinking, and a site of dynamic cultural and intellectual exchange. It’s about learning and about knowledge exchange: essentially, it’s about planting seeds. Because ultimately, you can’t transfer insight or truth from one mind to another: you can provoke, you can seduce or nudge someone, but each person has to discover what these things mean for themselves.
What are some of the themes and ideas that you would like to see designers exploring through the next few seasons?
The paradoxes inherent in fashion is something I’d love to see creatives deal with in a more explicit way: the desire for diversity and the requirement for exclusivity; the myth of the lone creative genius and the inherently collaborative nature of the business; the focus on originality and the magpie-like manner in which most creative directors and designers work. Fashion is about a lot of things that we as a culture feel ambivalent about – money, glamour, beauty, in and out groups, time passing and our bodies ageing. All of this is so present in the fashion system, it’s on its very surface. As a culture, we have yet to resolved these issues, and perhaps we never will. So fashion confronts us with our own paradoxes and contradictions, which is precisely what I find so fascinating about it. For me, being interested in fashion is about being interested in human beings and the systems we create.
How have these past years shaped the way you explore fashion through social media and the virtual world?
Social media has never really appealed to me; I’m drawn to language rather than images, and contemplation and insight rather than pithy observations. I need time to understand the world, and my own reaction to it. So though I understand its usefulness to fashion, I don’t use social media myself.
How do you, personally, explore what’s new and exciting in fashion?
To me novelty isn’t actually what excites me the most about fashion. We live in a super results-oriented society, but one thing that’s hard to quantify in this way are the fundamental, big ideas that drive a society or system forward. I want Vestoj to be that space, a space that allows for research, ideas and reflection. I want to encourage the fashion industry to consider, contemplate and invest in itself. We’ve become very good at looking outwards and aligning ourselves with other creative disciplines to accrue cultural capital: the fine arts, dance, music, film. We’re not so good yet at creating spaces for asking questions, nurturing intellectual endeavours, or thinking critically about our own practices. This is what I see as Vestoj’s role in the industry – and consequently what keeps me excited about fashion, both as an industry and as a system.