What I love about Vestoj, the infinitely impressive journal of sartorial matters, is the way each inch of the publication has been crafted to subtly convey its theme. You can draw meaning from every typographic and graphic detail, and you can read the editorial design almost like a painting. The latest example of its success is evident, ironically, in the latest theme “On Failure,” which also makes the most of its new, larger format.
The magazine always has a jacket, which designers have used in the past as a kind of visual metaphor, creating a link between the idea of a book jacket and a jacket that you can actually wear (see issue five). The nude, pink color of issue six is meant to resonate cheekily with Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, splashing jubilantly across the front like the magazine is wearing nothing but skin. An audacious move for a magazine about fashion? Yes, but it chimes with Vestoj’s manifesto to “challenge the status quo.” Throughout the entirety of issue six, the Vestoj team continue to lay the truth bare through a combination of word and image.
The colorful yet sad smiley face on the cover expresses contrasting feelings of joy and unhappiness, an important juxtaposition editor Anja Aronowsky Cronberg explores in her introductory letter. In our scramble to get ahead, she muses, we often miss opportunities to grow and learn. She suggests that failure can be a good thing and we should spend time examining our own. I think that the rainbow color of the sad face reflects the positives that Kronberg believes can come from looking more closely at mistakes. Also note this line on the back cover: “I err, therefore I am.”
Another way Vestoj visually embodies the theme of failure is in its use of spacious index sections. These largely blank text boxes are plonked into the center of text columns, and their strange emptiness creates a sense that something has been left out. The idea that something is missing chimes with the Emperor’s crucial lack in Anderson’s famous tale. Sometimes the blank box falls at the top of columns and melds with the gap for the header, which makes the text feel like it’s being unzipped.
Editorial design aside, Vestoj is immaculately put together in terms of its words. Its stories are strange, smart, and fantastically varied, both vigorously academic and hilariously tongue-and-cheek. In this issue there’s a piece on the failed attempts to get rid of high-heeled shoes in history, an essay and photo story about the clothing of patients in asylums, and a series of interviews conducted over Craigslist where people have shared anecdotes about major clothing mishaps. A photo series about where clothes go after you’ve thrown them in the recycling bin is also strangely poignant.
Section title pages make strong use of narrative photography, as do the provocative academic essays. I also love how a story about a dry cleaners in New York, which meticulously investigates how to deal with different stains, is printed on faded brown paper and includes its very own stain in the centerfold. Vestoj don’t overdo these little design tricks; they’re subtle enough not to detract from the overall elegance of the publication.
If you agree with Cronberg’s concept of failure, then after reading this issue you’ll no doubt wonder how many times the Vestoj team have had to fail to make something so brilliantly right. Here’s a way to be both smart and stylish, and a fantastic example of how editorial design can be used to elevate and strengthen the themes of a text-heavy publication.