I think the most important thing for me personally and professionally, is awareness. The unexamined life to me is not worth all that much. Something that I find really fascinating when I interview or just talk to people who work in fashion, is that there are some very intelligent people in our industry who have great ability to analyse what goes on around them, but who often have difficulty seeing their own role in a system that they find lacking. This, to me, can be immensely frustrating. I often meet critics who can talk at length about the dire state of criticism, somehow without realising how their own work contributes the status quo. When I talk to students, I tell them to think deeply about what values are important to them, and to be as transparent as possible about this – both with themselves, and with others. Being attracted to glamour is quite alright, as is wanting to be financially successful or striving to acquire prestige, power and status. But you have to be honest about it. And you have to be aware of what you give up in the process. The same goes if you want a life that allows you to remain independent. Every choice you make has consequences, and it’s our responsibility to be aware of what those are so that when they come we don’t end up feeling bitter or hard done by. I don’t mean to sound preachy, but these are important issues to consider for anyone about to start their career in fashion: What do you want to bring into the industry or take from it? What kind of industry do you want to be a part of?
Whatever part of this system you go into, you have to be aware of your choices and the sacrifices that they entail. If you choose to go into mainstream fashion, in order to be conventionally successful, you give up the ability to criticise that system because criticism usually equals being ostracised. It makes sense if you think about it. I mean, why would any existing power structure encourage those that undermine it? Working outside of the mainstream means you have the freedom to say what you like but, again, at the expense of a certain status and the privileges that come with playing ball. At the same time, if you work too far out on the margins, your voice risks not being heard by those who can actually change the status quo. You can end up preaching to the already converted, which can be limiting. These are things I think of a lot when it comes to my own work. I want Vestoj to be a platform for a type of thinking about fashion that is probing and analytical and critical when necessary. At the same time I don’t want to completely alienate the people working in the business. I would rather stand on the inside shouting, than on the outside pointing fingers.
I hope that helps some. I wish you all the best in finding your way. Try not to get impatient; it takes time.