Vanguards & Visionaries

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It’s funny there are so many people from abroad in this city. Every one of them looking for something that makes them stand out from all the rest. What are you doing here? What are you looking for? What is it that you’re good at?” These are questions we’ve all asked ourselves at least once in our lives. But for many young creatives, it is part of daily life. With technology becoming more widely available, and the Internet providing an open platform to showcase work to the world, more people have been given the opportunity to pursue their creative and artistic dreams. Or is that just an illusion?

It is an interesting question: “What is it that makes you special, different from all the others?” It seems like more than ever we feel the need to distinguish ourselves, and especially online, to create an image of ourselves that is unique and authentic. Images have become so important, they define our (online) identity, how we choose to represent ourselves. And this is crucial: how else, in an immensely rich and ever-expanding (digital) visual culture, will one be noticed?

The same is true for fashion brands, especially young designers and new labels. Much of the everyday street landscape is shaped by fast fashion chains, having made fashion more accessible than ever before in history. Being unable to beat fast fashion both in terms of quantity, speed, and price, start-up labels need something else: a vision.

Luckily for them, the virtual world gives them the opportunity to communicate one. No longer dependent on (commercial) fashion magazines, who in turn rely on paid for product placement and advertorials, the fashion film offers a desirable piece of content that can circulate independently on various platforms and through social media. More than any other medium, film is able to communicate a perspective, an aesthetics, a story, a vision.

And the Barcelona-based label The Match Boys Collective has a particular one, their slogan being “avoiding success.” The film’s main character and anti-hero declares:

“There isn’t anything that makes me feel special. But that’s okay, because I’ve never felt that way.”

This attitude is somehow reflected in the casualness of the collection, which does not really distinguish itself with any original style. Blending elements of skater clothing with the more recent normcore attitude, which consists of ‘finding liberation in being nothing special’ (read more), Vanguards and Visionaries tries to opt-out of the hectic around fashion trends. The quest to create a unique image of self through the things we do, and how these are presented to the world, is abandoned.

In fact, the quest for authenticity in our representation of self and the will to distinguish ourselves from others, is becoming more unaccessible the more we try to obtain it. As Anneke Smelik concludes in her article The Performance of Authenticity: “The more we are trying to be ourselves, the more we look like everybody else.” By embracing this statement, Vanguards and Visionaries goes beyond the surface of apparel, to the core of identity, by saying:

“There’s one thing that makes me feel different though, somehow unique. I have a vision, my vision. … And that vision is not me, or anybody else, changing the world or anything like that. That vision is my own way of looking at life. The way I look.”

This uniqueness is translated through the blurry aesthetics of an old cam recorder, representing the particular perspective of the protagonist. Interesting however is the double meaning of the statement “the way I look,” referring both to the uniqueness of every individual’s perspective on the world, as well as someone’s looks, as if these were two sides of the same coin – inseparable. Of course, this connection has to be made, or there would be no need for a Vanguards and Visionaries brand, and thus no commercial benefit.

Nevertheless, the film attempts to put less emphasis on the formation of identity through appearance, and proposes an ideology that strips authenticity from action and image, to our basic biological form, and simply unique DNA. Hence, it proposes a perspective on fashion away from the auto-renewed cravings created by the increasingly faster following up of trends, and seeks comfort in the endurance of clothes: a more sustainable alternative to the short-term satisfaction of season-bound fashion.

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