A Big Think Interview with Scott Schuman
After launching the now famous "Sartorialist" blog in 2005, Scott Schuman has emerged as an influential force in the world of fashion. A self-taught photographer, Schuman shoots for publications including French Vogue, American GQ, Fantastic Man and Elle, and a growing list of advertising clients. He has also shown his work at the New York photo gallery The Danziger Projects and appeared in the GAP Style Icon campaign in the fall of 2008. He has been named the number one fashion photography trend by American Photo magazine, as well as one of Time magazine’s top 100 design influencers. Penguin published an anthology of his favorite photographs in 2009. The hardcover collection is aptly entitled, "The Sartorialist."
Question: What drew you to fashion?
Scott Schuman: What made me want to work in fashion? When I was growing up I played sports like all the regular kids in the Midwest, boys in the Midwest and would read Sports Illustrated and you know read all about all the athletes that I liked and kept reading that what they were spending their money on, you know cars and music and fashion and you know, so I’d start picking up those magazines and I think I ended up becoming more interested in fashion than I did sports and the better I dressed the more attention I seemed to get from women, which was more attention than what I was getting on the football field.
Question: How did you get into blogging?
Scott Schuman: The blogging part was pretty easy. I had an idea for “The Sartorialist”, this idea of mixing photographs of guys that I knew were stylish with guys that I knew were fashionable, which are two different things, but I only really knew about websites at that time and I knew that a website would take too much time, too many other people would have to be involved and when I happened to be going through the internet I found a blog, just happened to click onto a blog and I’m the kind of person that once I see something interesting I just start hitting all the buttons trying to figure out how they’re doing it and it was an interior design blog actually and I thought it was pretty cool. She had like 30 comments. She had some good visuals up and once I saw that I was able to look at it in an abstract enough way to be able to say I could do this with my photographs. Once I figured out how she was doing it and how simple it was to do I thought that’s the format I want to do. There weren’t really any kind of… definitely I don’t think any street style blogs. Maybe “Face Hunter” was right about that time, but I didn’t really know it in the beginning, but I saw the potential of using a blog as a visual format as opposed to a just text driven. At least I think most of the blogs at that time were very text driven and if they had a little bit of visual it wasn’t very important where for me I thought this would be a great way to put photographs up and then put a little bit of text to create a conversation, but the simplicity is what made the blogging part so… The simplicity and the interaction with the audience were the two things I think make it most attractive.
Question: What is the difference between street fashion and what designers create?
Scott Schuman: The difference between what designers create are you know they’re creating a little world every season, you know head to toe, a full look, shoes bags, dresses, the whole thing whereas street fashion is what people are really wearing. There is an element of new. There is an element of previous seasons. There is your own history, you know your sweatshirt from high school and vintage pieces and it’s that kind of combination that I find so much more interesting than just the runway, but you know and I love fashion. I love going to the runway shows. It’s not so much for me a shopping trip as it is the appreciation of the craft of these design geniuses who come up with beautiful color combinations and beautiful proportion suggestions and these kind of ideas, so I look at the runway shows in very different ways, just kind of a romantic artistic interpretation of how they would like to see fashion going forward, but for me it’s much more abstract. The runway shows are much more abstract than you know what ends up on people is much more real to me.
Question: Are you a fashion insider or a fashion outsider?
Scott Schuman: Realistically a fashion insider. I mean I was in the business 15 years before I started the blog, so even though it was in a different part of the business. It was in sales and marketing. None of the people that I’ve met since I’ve been doing the blog did I know really beforehand, but I knew about the business and that’s how I really came with the eye. I think part of what I do is the photography. I think that’s half of it and I think I’m able… I learned how to be able to shoot something in the romantic way that I see it, but then the other half of it is the editing, who I choose to shoot and not so much because of the drama and over dramatic nature of the way they’re dressed. Sometimes it’s very, very subtle. My background in tailoring and in pattern making and I think really helped me understand the subtleties of a suit and why a guy can look great looking very subtle in a suit. I think that’s what really separates me is I have a real understanding of actual clothes and how they work and how they should fit and a reasonably good artistic version of photography that kind of captures that. I think that was really kind of the best combination.
Question: What is the difference between fashion and style?
Scott Schuman: The difference between fashion and style is that fashion is the sometimes. It’s the thing that’s happening at that moment. Sometimes it might be pointy shoes. Sometimes it might be heels. Sometimes it might be flats. Where style I think is something that’s always there in your own personal wardrobe whether it’s a navy cardigan, reading glasses like this, but that’s different for everybody. Everybody’s version of style is totally different and that’s what I think keeps me going out on the street everyday is going out and kind of seeing the variations and what things maybe I’d never seen quite that way that I find very curious and how people will be able to communicate their own persona through their clothing, their posture, the way they wear their hair. I think all those elements end up becoming very interesting because I don’t think I’m really particularly a people person. So for me I think it’s interesting to kind of be able to read people in that way.
Question: What are your favorite cities to shoot and why?
Scott Schuman: My favorite cities to shoot, Milan in Italy obviously. The guys look great. The women look great. There is an old school romance. I mean it feels like Italy in the 1950’s. The guys at the bars still wear beautiful white dinner jackets and there is a formality there. I mean it doesn’t matter if it’s 90 degrees in the summer and it’s killer hot in Milan. The guys still put on their jackets to leave their office to go get lunch and bring it back to the office. You never see that in America. Guys barely can put on their shirts to go to the office or keep their tie done, so I think there is a romance that they’re willing to and enjoy that formality that they’ve created there in Milan and all across Italy, but especially in Milan. So I love that formality, but at the same time after about a week I’ve had enough of that and I’m ready to go to Paris where it’s more sexy and more dramatic, more challenge in terms of how they put things together and then back to America. I really love being able to go to those three different places and in America we’re so much more sporty, so much more color, so much more different in the way that we talk about our style, the way we exude our style. We have… Like in Milan for example they’re very narrow. Everybody dresses in a few certain ways and they have beautiful variations on those few kind of styles, but in American there is a million different styles, rocker and vintage and sporty and preppy and so I like that variation, so one without the other is not nearly as interesting.
Question: Where else do you want to explore?
Scott Schuman: I’ve been to Hong Kong, which I thought was very interesting. Beijing, but I want to go there more. In 2010 that’s one of my big challenges is try and make it through Asia more and I don’t know. I’m curious to see what I find. I think in Japan I think there is a lot of style and a lot of subcultures, but it will be interesting to see how much of them… how much of the people wearing those clothes are really expressing something about who they are or who they want to be and it will be very interesting to see, especially once you get there, once you get to a certain city like in Stockholm you really get to know the people a little bit and what they’re saying through their clothes. It’s more… To me I think it’s much more interesting than just the clothes they’re wearing or the length of the skirt. You start to understand something about that culture. In Rio none of the girls have short hair. A lot of the interviews I did in Rio people would say, “What do you want to find in Rio?” And I’d say the one girl with short hair because they just don’t do it and once you get to know them a little bit you realize that all the girls are afraid to cut their hair short because they’re afraid their men won’t like them, so what you think of as a beautiful natural style actually becomes a style out of fear and it kind of changes your perception of it a little bit. So for Japan I’m very curious to see who is really doing something unique and who is just doing something because they’ve heard that’ s the way they do it Florence or Milan. [
Question: Are any trends truly classic?
Scott Schuman: Well by that question it’s… What’s that, an oxymoron? Trend and classic, I don’t know if we can put those two together. I don’t know because it’s totally different for everybody. For me a navy cardigan always looks great. Converse tennis shoes just always work, but that’s for me. And that’s just it. I don’t at least for me I don’t ever really look for trends. I’m looking for just what captures my attention at that time and rarely do I ever look back and try and put together trends or say this kind of trend is important. For me it’s about the individual expression and if you go back and look through the archives you might find certain things become trends, but it’s just not something that particularly interests me.
Question: When did your blog really takeoff and why?
Scott Schuman: Well the blog took off pretty quickly and I think it’s because I had a particular point of view. There has been other street style photographers, Bill Cunningham in the New York Times is like the godfather of modern street style photography and other people historically, but I think what they had always done is they were always trying to find the most dramatic, the people that you wouldn’t see every day, the people that were really different, where I shot things that people would aspire to. Something that maybe they would see every day, but didn’t really know the difference between something done well and something not done as well, a suit that fits a guy really well as opposed to just another suit or dress that fits a woman beautifully or the way that she has put this combination of fur and an open-toe shoe, two totally just separate kind of ideas and yet she has put them together in a way and go okay, that does look really great. So I think it took off not because I was shooting the incredibly different, but because I was shooting something people could relate to, a lot of different people could relate to and I don’t think there was one time, one particular thing that made me say this is really becoming popular, but for me it was these really heartfelt emails I would get from people that meant something to them, that they could look at these pictures and say, “I look like that guy, but I don’t look like him yet.” “I want to look like him.” “I’m big like him.” “I’m a little chubby like him, but he looks great and he is dressed better in his clothes than I am.” So I know these guy were printing photographs and taking it to Nordstrom or Sachs or Dillard’s or wherever and saying help me look like this and would be able to achieve it because it was never in my blog about how expensive it is. Almost if you look at most of the guys that are really well dressed it’s just the attention to detail and anybody can do that. That’s just taking it to alterations and getting the right amount of cuff and all these little things that aren’t about the expense, but just about the attention to detail.
Question: Has the recession influenced fashion?
Scott Schuman: I think the economic situation is affected in the sense that a lot of people that have money always have money and they’re still buying and they’re still shopping. They’re just not talking about it. When I go to fashion week people are still wearing new things and they’re still shopping, but I think they feel a little more guilty and they’ve had to let five people go from the company and not bring two people that usually go to Europe, so they’re still shopping. They’re just not talking about it that much. But it’s also I think helped people find a romance in shopping in their own closet again. Going back and looking at the clothes they already have. We’ve become such consumers I think people kind of forget what humongous closets we have, full of more clothes than what they could ever wear, so I think it’s maybe opened people’s eyes again to really look into what they have and kind of reengineering it and reworking it and I think that’s good.
Question: What do you look for in your subjects?
Scott Schuman: You know I was in the business for 15 years. My ex wife was a designer. I had a showroom where I worked with young designers, so I was very familiar with what designers look for when they’re going out to look for inspiration and they’re not looking for trends. If it’s something that’s already out on the street now that’s a trend now it’s not going to be something they’re going to design for a year from now. It’s usually much more abstract and it might be a detail. It might be color combination. It could be even the way the posture of a girl. I think one of the things that a lot of designers look at my site is not specifically the pieces that I’m shooting, but I think they maybe look at a girl and think I love the way that girl looks, but I would never dress her like that. That girl inspires me, but I love the idea of a long dress. Maybe she is wearing a long dress and they’re thinking it’s been a long time since I’ve designed a long dress, but I would never put it in a floral print. I would do it this way. So I don’t think they’re looking at my site for specific inspiration. I think they’re looking at it in a abstract way to get them thinking about that customer and that girl and that kind of girl they would like to dress and how they would do it a little bit differently and so I think that’s probably the most realistic. Or even the guys. I know a lot of the designers take a lot of those old guy pictures I take, these kind of really stylish old guys and I know it’s not because of the specific clothes that they’re wearing, but it’s the posture and it’s the attitude and it’s the elegance of these guys that is attracting them that inspires them and it’s the same thing for me. I’m totally inspired. It’s not that I want to dress like an 80 year-old Milanese guy, but the fact that they can still carry themselves with such an elegance, even at that age I think is very inspiring and whether it’s Milan or Harlem or wherever I think that’s something that guys really key on, a lot of the designers really key in on.
Question: What do you think about when you’re shooting?
Scott Schuman: When I’m shooting I try and keep it just very easy, very unplanned. I’m just walking around on the street looking for somebody that I think looks cool and I might be able to get a good shot. Today I was at Jamba Juice and there was a very cool girl, a very cool young college girl and she had a great coat and little cardigan with a fur trim and another print dress and nothing that she was wearing was expensive. It was all kind of thrown together, but thrown together just right, the color combination, how cute she looked. She was very kind of charming. Even though she was a tall girl she had a very kind of small persona, a very kind of shy persona and all of that is important. I mean to me the persona that she is creating whether it’s a big dramatic one or a quiet shy one, the way they stand, all of that is something that you want to try and capture in some way, at least my perception of who that person is in the photograph and so that’s you know you never know where you’re going to meet these people. That is why it’s fun. That’s why I enjoy going out and getting lost hopefully everyday or every other day and just seeing what is out there because by the end of the day I usually get back to my office and think I never would have thought I’d run into that kind of person there doing that thing and by constantly challenging myself that’s what I think keeps the integrity and the sincerity of the blog.
Question: Has anyone responded badly when you tried to snap them?
Scott Schuman: No, I haven’t had too many people. I mean people turn me down, but I think I’ve gotten pretty good at being able to tell who will probably turn me down and being able to read people a little bit. You know if someone is walking really fast then it looks like they probably have somewhere they’re going, so I don’t get too many people that are upset. I did have someone who was in the background of one of my pictures that I put up like two weeks ago and totally unrelated, he just happened to be walking by on the street, but he just happened to be looking just at the right moment at the subject I was taking a picture of and so he emailed me today feeling that maybe he should be compensated for being in that picture and or at least a big print or something like that, so I thought that was a little bit odd, but not too many weird or bad stories. I haven’t been beaten up or chased or anything yet.
Question: What other fashion blogs do you follow?
Scott Schuman: GaranceDore.fr, not just because she is my girlfriend, but I do truly think that she has got the best women’s fashion blog in the world. Her point of view is great. She is… Her writing is great. Her photography is great. Her… The way that she communicates to her reader is brilliant. The way she writes and the ability to be that stylish and that fashionable and yet that approachable. It’s a real challenge to be able to do that and do it consistently everyday because you can’t fake it.
She is doing a lot of things that other blogs just aren’t doing graphically that make it really interesting. I mean my blog is doing very well. My audience is bigger than hers, but there are days when I look at her blog and I’m totally jealous, totally pissed that she hasn’t told me how she did some of those things that you know just little technical things to make shots look great or how she is laying them out on the page or whatever, so I mean it’s a good kind of challenging relationship, but I think she probably does better than anybody else right now and I hate her for that and love her.
Question: Are fashion magazines becoming less relevant?
Scott Schuman: I don’t know. I guess with magazines I’ve never really looked at them that way. You know being someone who… You know I’m a self taught photographer and I taught myself photography just looking, looking, looking at the magazines, so to be honest a lot of them I hardly ever read. I don’t really look at what their real fashion opinion is. For me it’s always been very abstract, so I don’t know. I can’t really… I love my fashion magazines. You know a lot of times I get a question you know do you think blogs will replace fashion magazine and I hope not because I love my GQ and Vogue and Paris Vogue and all of that. I think I look at them less now just because I’ve started to develop my own photographic style that I’m very comfortable with, but they really are the ones that taught me the idea of how I wanted to shoot.
Question: Who are some of the most overrated personalities in terms of personal style?
Scott Schuman: Well almost everyone in Hollywood, almost everyone in the record business. I don’t know. To be honest I think it’s funny. I don’t really… You know I’m not much of a… You know I maybe said this before. I’m not much of a people person. You know in doing my blog it’s one of the few places where being incredibly selfish it’s actually very positive because I’m not really… When I’m taking a picture of someone like I don’t really put their names down. Rarely do I put the people’s names down because it’s just not that important. You know I’m taking a picture of someone. It’s my perception of who they are. I’m taking it the way I’m taking it because it’s some… I want to be able to look at… I want to enjoy the picture, so it’s my selfishness that’s actually very generous in the sense that I share the picture. I’m trying to take a nice picture of them, but I’m doing it for totally selfish reasons and one of the things I think people misunderstand on the blog is just because I take a picture of someone doesn’t mean they have great personal style. I mean I don’t know these people. Most of them I’m never met before. You know maybe there is just one thing in the look that I really love and that is all I want to focus on and I try and shoot it in a way that highlights that, but you know I don’t really have a lot of people… I’m just not judgmental that way and I think that sincerity comes through in the blog. I mean to me it really doesn’t matter who they are. It’s not that I don’t want to shoot people in Hollywood or models or musicians. If I ran into 20 musicians in a row and they looked great I’d shoot them, but that just rarely ever happens. I don’t really fall into that, but for me it’s much, much more abstract.
Question: Who is stylish?
Scott Schuman: Yeah, I think Tony Randall on The Odd Couple always looked great. I always thought he looked really cool. And there was someone just the other day. An old show I was watching and the guy always looked great.
Question: Has fashion changed in recent years?
Scott Schuman: I don’t think fashion has really changed much in the last five years. I mean the system is the system. If it was really going to change in a major way now would have been the time to do it. You know so many companies are closing, but they’re not really changing their method of how they do it. They’re jumping on the new hot thing, whatever it is. You know right now it’s blogs. Who knows what it’s going to be next, holograms or whatever and I think a lot of companies are closing, which is great. You know I think we’re way too oversaturated, too many brands, too many stores, too many labels, so you know if it was going to change now would be the time to do it, but it’s not really changing that much. You know shipping is not changing. You know I’d love to see a time when it actually gets cold is when winter clothes hit the store as opposed to the winter clothes hit the store always on the hottest day in August is when all the winter clothes hit, so I think because of technology and because of this kind of speed of digital internet and everything it will change soon because smart designers, young designers are going to be able to start showing their collection in a much wider audience and ship those products closer to the realtime. They won’t need Vogue and all these other places they have to work so far in advance to promote their fashion because they’ll be able to do it right themselves through the internet right to their audience and be able ship the clothes accordingly to that audience and I think there is very… a day very soon where you’ll be able to get some kind of digital printout of your body and have the clothes made for your shape. It will be a new age of tailoring and it’s definitely more than five years off, but I don’t think it’s really faraway. I think it’s definitely in the near future and that will really change fashion, the fashion system in the sense that you won’t just have all this excess of clothes and things shipped so early because you need x amount of time to sell. Hopefully it will become much more efficient, much more effective if you’re actually making clothes that fit people and clothes that people are ordering and want as opposed to trying to guess what they might want.
Question: Who are your following?
Scott Schuman: My readers are located everywhere. You know one of the things that I knew about doing a photo driven blog was that you didn’t have to read English to be able to enjoy the photographs. You know there were elements of people that are looking at it for the fashion content. There is an element of people that kind of like to live vicariously through all these different crazy places I’m going. There is an element that likes to share their fashion idea, maybe they had always dreamed of becoming a fashion designer and moving to New York or Milan, but for whatever reason, a family reason or whatever they weren’t able to do that, so they’re stuck in Wisconsin or wherever they are and this is their chance to kind of be in that community a little bit, share their comments, look at fashion, share with an audience. One of the things I’m very proud of is we’ve been able to create and audience that is respectful, that you can talk about your fashion ideas, what you like, what you don’t like in a respectful forum. So with that said I think it’s all over the place. I mean all I know is right now when I travel and I do these book tours we always get a really, really good turnout, a very varied audience, men, women, young, old, rich, poor. The audience very much looks like the photographs in my blog, the photographs in my book, which is something I’m very proud of.
Question: How has New York changed?
Scott Schuman: New York has changed… It changed a lot. I’ve been here almost 20 years and maybe when I first moved here people would have said it would be a horrible place to raise kids and now I think everyone would agree it’s a pretty good place to raise kids. It’s clean. It’s modern. I mean I travel around now a lot and I still think New York looks great. You know I mean all the time there is new buildings going up, new different kinds of architecture. There is just always something happening, so I have to sound like such a Yankees fan and such a New York fan, but I still can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather live than here.
Question: How can someone take a great fashion photo?
Scott Schuman: Shoot from the heart, that’s a good one. I think I’ll actually just stop at that. Shoot from the heart I think would be the best. You know I think it really doesn’t matter. I like to take good quality photographs. I like to try and have the light a certain way and the person stand a certain way. Even though it’s all very natural it happens very quickly. I work very quickly and work with what I’m given. I don’t really pose the people or anything. I just kind of work with who I think that person is, but I think the honesty of it is I think people like to live vicariously. I mean it’s the whole idea of this reality TV. They like to live vicariously through other people and see other people’s ideas and other people’s take on the world, so whether you’re taking it with just a little digital camera if you’re actually taking pictures that mean something to you in a real way and you actually have something to say people will follow that blog because you’ll find likeminded people, but by doing that I think you know one of the things that separates me is I don’t shoot just all 20 year-old hipsters. I shoot old and young and that brand comes across in the variety of people I shoot because I actually have something to say and I can do that as opposed to saying one thing over and over. It gives me a wider vocabulary to be able to shoot people in a lot of different ways and a lot of different types of people, but you always know it’s one of my shots and that’s because I take it very seriously and I have a real passion about it. I have a real point of view and so I think that’s what someone has to do before just deciding I think I want to go out and take pictures of people in the street I think they really have to have a point of view. You know it’s very important what I don’t shoot as opposed to what I do shoot. There is a lot of people in the fashion business I’ve never shot, so without a real passionate point of view I don’t think there is anything you can do because then it just becomes a report on product and there is a lot of blogs like that and I think they’re incredibly boring. You know just a report of what is out there doesn’t do anything for me.
Question: What are some tips for a successful blog?
Scott Schuman: Well passion and a point of view, number one. Consistency, you know you have to be able to create a consistent voice because if you’re blogging in a real way I think you have to do it very regularly. If it’s not five days a week or six days a week, in a way that people start to know when they can come see your blog, when there is going to be new images up. Not always, it doesn’t have to be exactly the same time every day. You know it’s not so bad to keep them guessing, not so bad to have them coming back once or twice, but there has to be a consistency in the voice because you just can’t fake it five days a week, so I think that’s really important. I think the next generation of blogs is going to be just like the beginning of websites. You know you could kind of do it on your own and kind of have it and it didn’t look great necessarily, but now you know blogs are getting very sophisticated and I think people are going to have to really start to be serious about the way the blog looks. The days I think of just being able to steal images from all over the place to put them on your blog and just put another two cents in on somebody else’s conversation is pretty close to over because the blog is not going to be able to grow that way. The blog is only going to be able to grow once you’re in control of all the content and I think that’s why street style blogs have grown so quickly is we’re in control of the visuals. We’re in control of the writing. If you’re using a particular kind of blog you can be more in control of the fonts and the graphics and everything else.
Question: What makes a photo captivating?
Scott Schuman: I don’t know. You can’t really do anything. I mean at least for me anyway because it’s so many different things. I mean it’s the clothes themselves. It’s the person. It’s I just have to… You know that’s the artist. You know there is no… I wish I could say as a marketer well you know if you’re wearing this brand and blah, blah, blah that will make it really interesting, but it’s not. You know that’s the artist in me. You know sometimes you meet someone and it’s just something that clicks and it might an obvious kind of beauty or a non obvious kind of beauty or just something that you feel. You know I shot this woman in Barcelona the other day, this beautiful older woman and she you know, really beautifully aged face and very perfectly done hair and fur coat and you know she was definitely not typical traditional beauty, but there was just something so charming about her and I don’t think she would end up on anybody else’s blog, but you know that is definitely a part of my vocabulary and I’m sure she didn’t get up that day thinking what should I wear to be shot by The Sartorialist”, I know he is in town, but you know that’s the fun of it. You just never know. There are people I see all the time that you would think you know maybe be on the blog, but if I don’t feel something and don’t feel I’m going to be able to shoot it the way that I want then it doesn’t really matter, but all black is pretty boring. If you’re going to do all black you better do some good proportion or texture or something like that, color, pattern, things like that that actually… Real elements of design are always a good place to start.
Question: Who are your Heroes?
Scott Schuman: My heroes are my mom and dad and I think just anyone that succeeds at what they do through really you know trying to do something unique and different and interesting, something that maybe not that people told them would never work, but that you know really says something about who they are and how they saw something differently and it’s a bunch of different things. You know the guys that do the Mac computers, the design for the Mac computers I think are great. I don’t know if they’d be a hero, but someone I definitely look up to. You know and take that chance of saying you know we’re going to do them in color now and then knowing as someone that used to work in the fashion business how tough that is to go to the stores and say we want you to buy these computers in color now and that they’re going to come back and say how are you going to buy… I don’t know what color, what percentage to put, what color and what computer and all that, someone that has such a passion for something and is willing to really go through all the steps and be able to sell that concept to somebody you know whether it’s designing the Mac computer, whether it’s Armani in the ‘80s doing a completely different kind of design for women, whether it’s Bruce Webber kind of figuring out how to shoot people in a wholesome but sexy way. You know those are the people that I look at that I think I’m the most inspired by in terms for their work.
Question: What’s an ethical Dilemma you’ve faced?
Scott Schuman: An ethical dilemma. I don’t think it was an ethical dilemma, but I did have to figure out how I would handle having advertising on the blog because I knew that there would be certain people saying oh, well you know here it goes, blogs are going to go downhill because they’re going to have advertising and they’re just going to shoot… American Apparel was one of the first advertisers on the site and I was prepared for people to start saying oh, now we’re going to start seeing a lot of American Apparel or whatever, but that never happened. You know I think the sincerity and the integrity of the blog, the fact that I was able to have advertising and it’s never affected any of the work on the site, that you never see anything about American Apparel on the site unless it’s something I see and someone happens to be wearing American Apparel, that the absolute integrity and sincerity is still there. I just shot a big story for Burberry, a big ad campaign and I announced it because I was very proud of the work and showed some of the pictures that I really liked from that project and probably did three or four posts, but I didn’t put anything in there about you know where to buy the trenches, no information about it. I was just showing the photographs I was very proud of from that project and the audience totally understood it. They… But at the same time I lover Burberry and I was very happy to work with that and I think the new reality is sometimes people have a hard time handling the new reality is you know I’m an artist and I’m a… I guess that’s the only way you can say it. I don’t consider myself a journalist. I’m not trying to sell you something. I’m not trying to tell you the story of these things. I’m just showing you my pictures, so I feel totally comfortable saying I love Burberry or Ralph Lauren or whatever because those are things that I like and so that’s hard for some people to be able understand that, but because it’s so consistent and I’ve been so consistent in how I present those things and how I let them be… manifest themselves on the blog that’s what I think has been able to keep the sincerity and keep the audience believing in what I do.
Question: What’s the worst career advice you were ever given?
Scott Schuman: The worst career advice, I don’t know. I’ve never really had much career advice. My dad always gave me great advice and you know I think I mean I hate to say it, but you know I wasn’t a good corporate person. Everything that made me horrible working a corporation was perfect for this kind of job, so I never really got bad advice because I never really asked for any.
Question: If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
Scott Schuman: No, they can be dead. Well that would be boring. I don’t… I think it would be maybe like Pablo Picasso. I think he was probably crazy. I mean I know he was crazy. I think everyone says he was crazy, so I think you just wouldn’t know what would happen at dinner and I’d love to talk to him about art and how he challenged himself and was always trying to look for a new way of expressing his artistic… his artistic expression or whatever, but I think he also would probably do something crazy at dinner and that would be fun, maybe him and Tracy Morgan.
Question: What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Scott Schuman: The fact that I always thought that I knew better than the people I was working for. That’s not good. That’s not a good thing to think that you always know better than the people that are your bosses and it always created a problem for me. I always thought I had a good point of view on this, that and whatever and it turned out to be okay, but you know at some point it always created problems for me working corporately and so at some point my dad it can’t always be them, so at some point it’s got to be you, you’re the only thing that’s consistent in this and that’s hard. You don’t want to hear that from your dad, but I think it was probably true and I think it helped me realize that either I got to put up or shut up and so I’m glad that when I went out and worked on my own I don’t have all the answers, but you know I really had to push myself to handle all the different areas because it’s not just photography. It’s running the business and it’s accounting, all the different kind of things, so you know now I have the challenge of actually trying to go out there and learn a lot of different things to make it all keep going.
Recorded on December 2, 2009
A conversation with The Sartorialist, an influential fashion blogger.