Issue two: On Fashion and Magic

There has never been a society without some notion of the forces that move in the shadows, beyond that which we can grasp with logic or reason. Invocations, sacrifices, talismans and diagrams have been employed by man since the dawn of civilisation, and in every culture, from ancient Greece and Egypt to the Western world of today, the non-rational, whether as religion, spirituality or magic, has continued to mesmerise and bewilder us in equal measures.

As we began to think about the second issue of Vestoj, it seemed striking that magic appears to have so much in common with fashion. For us, our journey into these two worlds was set in motion when we began thinking of the alchemist and his search for eternal youth and the way in which the fashion industry seems to perpetually be on the very same quest. We started thinking about clothes as talismans (my lucky shirt!), about crystals and magical colours. About Irish rag trees, Dorothy and her red shoes, the fortune teller and her red cloak, the magician and his top hat, the priest and his cassock, the red string worn around the wrist in the Qabalah, Sabina’s hat in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, about trompe l’oeil, surrealism, spectacle, transformation, displacement, fantasy, worship and performance and about how they all have an impact on the fashion we see on the catwalk. In fact, isn’t the catwalk itself a moment of magic and symbols?

Imagine the witch’s generous hood helping her to blend into the shadows of the forest as she senses danger in the air. Or fancy the archetypal sorcerer in his black robe, embroidered with cryptic symbols, wielding his wand as he invokes a god or demon through some intricate and indecipherable magical formula. What do they mean, these accoutrements, so blatantly different from what we wear in our everyday lives? Could it be that they are in fact tools serving the magus on his journey to another consciousness? Could a robe, or a hat or a necklace, ever serve as a portal to another world?

It isn’t however, just the individual garments that have allowed our imagination to wander, but also fashion as a system, which in a similar manner appears to be thoroughly linked to magic. For each to act, we need wonders, rituals, myths and revelations, the prediction of the future and symbolic as well as tangible fireworks. Fashion, just like magic, refuses to be defined in any one way; rational analysis does not apply. These are systems that work with emblematic values, magically metamorphosing unconscious yearnings and aspirations into something more material, as cloth, as incantation.

Fashion, as well as clothing in general, whether a part of the capitalist system and displayed on a catwalk or a part of traditional folk religion and worn by a shaman, is full of contradictions and often it speaks directly to our dreams and desires. For any system to work we need to accept it as true, in this respect fashion really is no different from magic. The connections between the two are as many as they are intriguing. Not least the fact that, after all, for fashion to work its magic we need to believe, don’t we?

Texts by

Aliina Astrova, Zoe Bedeaux, Adam Biles, Brian Butler, Mona Choo, Simon Costin, Julie Cirelli, Alexandra Cronberg, Roxane Danset, Caroline Evans, Sofie Krunegård, James Norton, Alistair O’Neill, Eleanor Pearce, Aaron Rose, Jeffrey Spier, Claire Wilcox, Elizabeth Wilson

Images by

David Armstrong, Johan Björkegren, Henry Bourne, Christophe Brunnquell, Nick Cave, Christian Coinberg, Vincent Darré, Amira Fritz, Martina Hoogland-Ivanow, Estelle Hanania, Jenny Mörtsell, Alia Penner, Ola Rindal, Sean Ryan, Matteo Serri, Gudrun Willcocks

Design by

Erik Hartin