Vanity Teen’s current cover offers up a striking big hair moment. At first glance she’s a crazy Raggedy Anne doll; a whitetrash siren who thought that Peg Bundy was a style icon ‘for real’; perhaps even a whiff of the lion from the Wizard of Oz.
On closer inspection, we learn that the cover is extracted from the expansive conceptual denim story that stands at the heart of Vanity Teen’s tenth issue. The story ‘Struwwelpeter’ shows a new sense of maturity for the hot young Spanish magazine that is primarily known for its punky pouting and bad kid attitude. But, as the sprawling project profiling denim shot by Ben Lamberty shows, the young talent behind Vanity Teen can more than hold its own in a traditional studio-bound format in addition to the from-the-hip street location shoots for which the mag has become known.
As the name ‘Struwwelpeter’ suggests, the starting point for this impressive fashion story is the weird world of European fairytales and children’s’ stories. For those familiar with Heinrich Hoffman’s 1845 popular children’s book, it’s interesting to note just how literally Lambert and stylist Marcell Naubert have actually constructed Hoffman’s famous character in their opening shot. The amazing nails are not purely a contemporary invention, but rather faithful to the descriptions and early illustrations of Peter and his signature tendril fingers. Though translated into English on numerous occasions, translators could not really agree on how to best capture the concept for children in English. Thus Peter is known as everything from ‘Shaggy Peter’ to Mark Twain’s beautifully free version of ‘Slovenly Peter’. Regardless of the differences over linguistics, the one thing that remains pure to Hoffman’s original is that they are strangely dark tales with a chilling moral attached: Peter’s misbehaviour always results in one disaster or another.
If Hoffman, a psychiatrist, had originally intended his book for his son as a means of ethical education, it’s somewhat amusing to note that the generation brought up on Hoffman’s aid to psychological development was the first to dive for Sigmund Freud’s approach to repairing the trauma of the experience.
What unfolds in Vanity Teen is a Tim Burton-esque vision in which the notoriously kinky kids’ tales become a starting point for a camp and theatrical presentation of some of the hottest denim streetwear brands mixed with more experimental design talent; urban mythology derived from ancient folklore with a few nods to the typologies of pop culture. But, if Heinrich Hoffman’s original is always about the young Peter facing dire consequences as a result of his bad behaviour, what exactly should we think the young creatives at Vanity Teen might be trying to tell us?