Fresh Talk: The Sartorialist

By Jenna Fain • Jul 8th, 2009 • Category: Editor's Faves, Juicy Story, Style   

Scott Schuman, also known as The Sartorialist, is a citizen of the world. His work has covered the nooks and crannies of fashion hotspots across the globe from New York to Milan, Paris to London, and Australia. And word has been floating around that Japan is on the agenda in the near future. Schuman’s schedule has become jam-packed with ventures galore - everything from shooting global fashion weeks, contributing freelance magazine work, marketing campaigns, and writing an upcoming photography book. He still finds a way to balance his roles as Scott Schuman/The Sartorialist and father to two young daughters. The Sartorialist has played a defining role in democratizing the trendsetting playing field from the runways to the streets of our local neighborhoods and business districts. What direction is this dynamic headed as personal fashion blogs continue to engage the imagination of consumers? Schuman is behind the wheel, that’s for sure.

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with the famed photographer via telephone before his trip to São Paulo. I learned that Schuman is as down-to-earth as his readers hope he would be, possesses a spot-on self-deprecating sense of humor, and is polite to boot! Most impressively, however, Schuman is for his fans; dedicated to perfecting and innovating his art for his readers alone.

TSM: Please tell us more about your upcoming book! Are you selecting your favorite photos from The Sartorialist past, or are you taking new photos specifically for the book? When is it slated to be released?
SS: It’s pictures from the blog that I really love. A bit more in-depth writing and concepts I’ve learned from the blog; a bit of a retrospective about the people I’ve met. It comes out in August. [Editor’s Note: August 12, 2009 to be exact.]

Have you had an “A-ha!” moment, when you’ve thought, “Wow, I get to make a living doing what I love?”
There really wasn’t one moment, but I kept getting great e-mails from fans, really sincere and heartfelt e-mails about how much my work meant to them. That’s when I knew I was onto something. You can do all the advertising you want, you can do all the interviews or whatever, but if you’re not having that sincere contact with readers, it doesn’t really matter. You can’t tell them to like it, they have to really like it. There was a natural response to it from the beginning; they understood what I was doing. I think the readers felt the sincerity in what I do and they picked up on it naturally and understood clearly what I was doing.

You haven’t lost that accessibility and the ability to relate to people, which I, as a reader, genuinely appreciate. There’s an old adage that people are their own worst critics. Do you hold yourself to exceptionally high standards and self-criticism? Are there any flaws that you try to better about yourself?
You know, they say that. I drive myself, but part of being an artist, especially when you’re doing something daily like a blog, is accepting “I want to do this for the rest of my life.” You have your up days and your down days. You can’t make a masterpiece everyday, but it doesn’t have to be a perfect picture to mean something to people. Some pictures are meant to inspire a thought, others are meant to be a starting point to talk about a subject or to illustrate a discussion. You can be conscious that some just exist as beautiful pictures. The thing I like about my life is that the days I feel like working really hard, I work really hard. The days I feel like taking it easy, I take it easy. I know myself and my limits. I’m in tune to making art and writing. I’m not my own worst critic, but probably my best cheerleader. I try not to beat myself up. If I do it, I’m going to do it really well, I’m not going to wear myself out. I’m going to give it my best.

The Sartorialist has become just as ubiquitous for its debonair men as for its chic ladies. Which menswear trends are you working up the gusto to tackle in regards to your own wardrobe?
I don’t really look for trends as I move deeper into fashion, yet fashion has become less important in my day to day. Clothes have to fit me well and work within my lifestyle. They are physical; they have to look good, but still move around and let me do what I have to do. I want things that are not totally out of fashion, but like slim-cut shirts with a higher arm hole. Styles that allow me to do what I have to do when I’m shooting. It’s always a mix of trying to buy a couple things that are of the moment and things that are classic and cater to my lifestyle.

You have become a cultural arbiter of quality and cool. What books are on your reading list and what’s spinning on your iPod?
A Matthew Pearl book, The Last Dickens. I listen to a lot of Blue Wall on my iPod, too.

What’s the last spectacular film you saw?
Frost/Nixon was pretty good.

Which qualities do you most associate with each fashion-centric city’s sophisticated subjects? No matter where you go, you always scout out the most stylish people. Where do you hope to travel in the coming months?
New York does vintage very well; America does in general. The girls are beautiful, but really smart and strong. There’s just something about New York girls. They’re really special. They’re not French girls or Italian girls, they’re New York girls. Paris is definitely a girl’s city, for sure. The girls are sexy, introspective. And in Milan, it’s the guys. The guys in Italy are just so unbelievable. As for travel, I’d love to go to Japan. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go there, but hopefully soon.

With the current economic climate and the turbulence of the luxury market, the emphasis is turning onto people who create themselves through style merits, rather than celebrity. Do you have any favorite style bloggers whom you would love the opportunity to photograph?
The only one I think is great, or the one whom I really know, is Garance Doré. But she’s my girlfriend so I get to shoot her all the time! There’s not too many who pop to me that are very good. A lot of people can take pictures of themselves, which is okay, but I haven’t found any who are really intriguing. Some of these young girls are on to something, but they’re trying to show what they’re wearing while they only have limited outfits. Anyways, as opposed to what they’re wearing, they should focus on the romantic parts of their lifestyle. Everyone has a romantic aspect of their lifestyle, whether you’re in Austin, Texas or Portland, Oregon, you have your own life. People love to live vicariously through others, that’s why all those reality shows are so popular. If a girl came along, or even a guy, who was able to talk about their style and how it fits into their everyday life, and do it in a way where readers feel like they’re secretly, voyeuristically, living along with them through their life, something like that would be accessible because the core would always be fashion but a little about their life is much more insightful than “this is my skirt today.”

Julia Frakes and Jane Aldridge really bridge that gap between fashion and how it fits into their daily lives.
Yes, I know Julia, she’s quite into illustrations, which is great. I go onto Jane’s site occasionally, too. It would be interesting to see who her friends are and what her life is apart from her outfits. The next stop is to spread it out a little bit more. It’d be interesting to see how her chic-ness affects her going to high-school in a nowhere place in Texas. What is that like, you know? I bet it’s very intriguing!

You mentioned your girlfriend, Garance. In a candid Refinery29 feature, Garance said, “He [Scott] inspires me. He’s passionate about books, films, travel, about fashion with its many faces, be it a tailor in some forgotten back corner of Italy, the phenomena that is Marc Jacobs, or some unknown who had just come up with the perfect new way to tie a scarf. I just love him. I love that aspect about him. I love that openness.” So it begs to be asked: what do you admire about Garance?
I admire the same things. I admire her drive. She says I influenced her to get into doing more photography and fashion, but she challenged herself to create her own voice. She likes my pictures and she likes the feelings she gets from my pictures, but she wants to take her own. She’s been battling to cultivate her own style and look, which is great. That’s what I really like - someone who challenges themselves and learns fast. I never have to teach her things and sit down with a camera, she just watches and learns, and figures out what it means to her, how she can take those elements and make it into something for herself.

What’s your idea of sheer bliss?
When my kids say something really funny.

It sounds like you’re a hands-on Dad to daughters Claudia and Isabel. I really admire that.
I try to be! They’re really good kids.


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One Comment

  1. I love this guys blog, very interesting read!

    July 15th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

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