SCOTT SCHUMAN // 1500 word essay
Scott Schuman is a world-renowned fashion photographer and blogger who created and runs his own fashion blog called “The Sartorialist”. This site has become one of the fashion industries most respected and visited sites. Time ranked The Sartorialist as one of the Top 100 Design Influences in 2007. But Schuman’s blog hasn’t been his only career success. Schuman has been asked to contribute to Saks Fifth Avenue, French Vogue and GAP, just to name a few collaborations throughout his career. While he started out as a boy from Indiana, he has certainly become a man that has taken the fashion world by storm.
Growing up Schuman says he was the average Midwest boy who played and was interested in sports. It wasn’t until he started seeing all of the things some of his favorite athletes were spending their money on like cars and fashion that he realized he instinctively gravitated toward fashion. After researching fashion more and dressing himself better he noticed he got more attention from the ladies, so he didn’t hate that aspect of the fashion world either. He began to see the world through pictures and see fashion of the world through pictures that he studied in fashion magazines. As a boy from Indiana, he said that looking at Vogue was like looking at a whole knew world he never knew existed.
After graduating from Indiana University Schuman moved to New York City where he landed marketing jobs for top designers like Jean-Paul Gaultier, Rudolph Valentino and Helmut Lang. He even served as the director of men’s fashion at Bergdorf Goodman. Around that same time he opened his own showroom specializing in sales and press for up-and-coming designers, which taught him the competitive aspects of the fashion industry. With his own showroom he basically assembled designer’s reputations from the ground up giving him a designers eye that would help him later on in his career. While he loved fashion, he also had an interest in photography. “I didn’t want to become a ‘fashion photographer,’” he says, “but I knew somehow that my loves of fashion and photography would eventually merge. I just never guessed it would be in the form of a blog.”
Schuman was in the fashion world for fifteen years doing fashion sales and marketing before he started his blog. Schuman’s now successful fashion journalism blog started out with the idea to “travel the world searching for people whos style define who we are today.” He wanted to mix photos of guys and girls who were stylish and who were fashionable, which he says are two different things, and put them online. At the time he only knew of websites, but thought that would take too many people to be able to create it. So after stumbling upon an interior design blog online and realize he could use that format for his photographs, The Sartorialist was born. The blog was created in 2005, a time when he didn’t know of any other street style blogs that were already happening. He saw the blog as a great way to share his work visually, while limiting text, which is something, blogs at that time weren’t doing. Schuman chose to create a photo driven blog, which he knew could make him successful all over the world. “One of the things that I knew about doing a photo driven blog was that you didn’t have to read English to enjoy the photographs.” And he was right because his readers are from all over and range from old to young and rich to poor. That’s one of the things he is most proud of, the diversity of his readers. The instant success of his blog allowed him to make it his full time job just a few months after the blog hit the internet.
He said he loves the idea of street fashion because you get to see how people actually wear the styles and trends. “There’s an element of new, there’s an element of previous season there’s your own history, your sweatshirt from high school, vintage pieces. Its that combination that I find so much more interesting than the runway.” The idea that the runway show is much abstract and more of the direction the designers want fashion and trends to go, while what people actually wear is much more enticing to Schuman. Schuman believes there is a different between fashion and style, and that’s something he documents through his photos. “The difference between fashion and style is that fashion is the sometimes, its the thing that’s happening at that moment…while style is something that’s always there in your personal wardrobe.” He says not everyone has fashion and style but its what makes things interesting. He doesn’t think of himself as a people person, so for him he finds it interesting to read people in that way.
He loves the romantic and classic style of Milan. But he loves the sexy and unique vibe of Paris, and the sport and different vibes of New York City. He has noticed how in Milan there are very narrow with few styles, but in America there’s a million different styles and he loves that variation. While Milan is his favorite city to shoot, he thinks all of these cities wouldn’t be as interesting without the variation of the others. So after he’s worked in Milan for a week, he’s ready to move on and see something new.
With his work, Schuman says that the photography is half of it and having an editing eye is the other half. “I learned to shoot something in the romantic way that I see it.” And that’s also why his blog has become so popular. His blog has taken off because he has a unique point of view. He isn’t just shooting the trends. He isn’t just shooting what people want to see, but what they aspire to. He is showing and displaying what he moves him and what he loves. His work is not documentation, its art. “I think it took off not because I was shooting something incredibly different but because I was shooting something people could relate to.”
Before his success in fashion blogging, Schuman had experience in the fashion business. He worked for fifteen years in fashion retail and marketing. His ex wife was a designer, and he has worked with many designers giving him the edge of knowing a designers eye. He knows that designers aren’t looking to the trends; they are looking to set the trends. So designers look for little bits of inspiration from the world such as a detail from a jacket or the attitude of a person, rather than copying a whole look. And because of his designer eye background, that’s exactly where he finds his own inspiration. And his background in tailoring gives him an appreciation for well-made clothes. “It’s the posture and the attitude of these guys” he says about the people he shoots and the inspiration they bring.
This unique point of view of fashion and style as well as the world around him is what has made Schuman’s fashion blog so successful. Schuman considers himself an artist not a journalist. A journalist documents the facts, and the facts are boring he said. He says to be successful you really have to have your own point of view and “shoot from the heart”.
While he loves fashion magazines like GQ and Vogue and has even worked with them throughout his career, he views them in a more abstract way. Rather than reading all of the stories he looks at the pictures. And as a young boy, it was really these photos in the fashion magazines that taught him about style and how to shoot. “Opposed to telling a story, I like to hope my photos start a story.”
Schuman’s success in the fashion blogging industry has led him to other opportunities in his career path. For instant in 2006 just one year after starting The Sartorialist, Vogue’s official website hired him to shoot a series of collections in cities such as London, Paris, and Milan. He also writes a monthly column for GQ and appears in videos on Style.com. He collaborated with Burberry for their project “The Art of the Trench” and most recently did a photo series for Art of Shaving to be featured in a show. He has also become an author, as he has published two books already throughout his career. Based upon his blog, the books display and organize these photos that are found on his blog that has made him a name in the fashion industry. Penguin publishing began printing his book “The Sartorialist” in 2009 and he has sold over 100,000 copies. He has also designed a book called “The Sartorialist: Closer” with a women’s and men’s cover. The books encompass the diverse styles that Schuman sees when photographing in Japan, Korea, London, Milan, New York, Paris, and many more. The books include some of Schuman’s favorite images as well as some exclusive images. He has also been interviewed and featured in many magazines such as Fantastic Man, British Vogue, GQ, New York Magazine, and many more.
Sources 1 & 2 from above are great video interviews by Intel and A Big Think Interview. Also, check out Scott Schuman on TED here.
We were also asked to create a word list about our photographer / their work / feelings you get when looking at their work / etc. I doodled mine in my sketch book and scanned it in:
Some of the key words defined,
SIMPLE: easy to understand, deal with; not elaborate or artificial
CLASSY: of high class, rank, or grade; stylish, admirably smart, elegant
ABSTRACT: thought of apart from concrete realities; expressing a quality or characteristic apart from any specific object or instance; theoretical
ROMANTIC: of or pertaining to the nature of romance; fanciful, impractical, unrealistic; imbued with or dominated by idealism, a desire for adventure
REFRESHING: pleasingly fresh or different
RELIABLE: that may be relied on; dependable in achievement, accuracy, honesty
refreshingly genuine // simply bold // modern romantic // simply popular // freshly wistful // exhilarating minimal // refreshingly straightforward // trendy pioneer // refreshing romantic