Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Sartorialist

Q&A and Booksigning with Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist, 22 January, 2013 © Foam

Scott Schuman attended a Q&A and book signing for the launch of his new book, Closer. It took place in &Foam on 22 January 2013.

Scott Schuman is better known as 'The Sartorialist'. Well, maybe not by his mum, but for the rest of us, he and his blog are one and the same. I wonder if that was part of the plan, the construction of a specific online identity that would effectively overtake his own offline one. I'm not sure it was.  I don't think Schuman actually ever intended for himself to become more familiar by his blog name than his real one.

I like to think he named The Sartorialist in the same way magazines or newspapers have often been named in the past. The Economist, The Socialist Worker, The Carpet Enthusiast (I made that one up). Titles like these, while referring to a single individual, imply a collective community of like-minded readers. A publication for a certain type of person. It hasn't turned out that way in the case of The Sartorialist. The title refers unequivocally to Schuman. This is the world of the blog, after all, where platforms like his are usually one-man operations. The fact he has made such a success of his puts him personally in the spotlight and alters the meaning of The Sartorialist from what we would understand traditionally (a publication for fashion conscious readers) into a definition purely of the author.

Q&A and Booksigning with Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist, 22 January, 2013 © Foam

But that is exactly why it has had such success. While the title of his blog might never have been intended as a nom de guerre for Schuman, the concept was always about him and him alone. Referring to his street photography, he said in his talk that he was interested in the dream an individual constructs for him or herself. That may be true, but they were all dreams that he alone noticed and captured. It is his eye for the best ones that sets him apart from many others trying to do the same thing.

But is Schuman still in control of his vision, that independent eye he started with? He has advertisers, access to the big runway shows, he has a publisher (they were there at Tuesday's book signing, tweeting the news. Does a Penguin tweet?). He also has stylists, location scouts and others for his commercial work. No doubt he has people running the site for him too. Apparently he is in control. Schuman insists that his street photography serves no one more than himself. A look or an outfit spotted by him on the street is still just that, with only location information to go on. After all, that is what his currency is built on. Otherwise his becomes another online fashion magazine.

Q&A and Booksigning with Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist, 22 January, 2013 © Foam

If that is the case, it actually makes it quite difficult for The Sartorialist to become anything bigger than himself. Schuman is very aware that his reputation stands, perhaps more than ever, on his individual and chance view of what is unusual or striking in the way someone dresses. Could he ever give that away by bringing in others to do his street photography, for example? Surely that would only undermine the entire proposition.

The result is that The Sartorialist, while being a blog for the fashion conscious reader, is in reality more the brand persona and portfolio for a very savvy fashion photographer. He may not have expected to become better known as The Sartorialist than Scott Schuman, but no doubt he won't be worried that this is what we call him as well as his blog. As long as his mum doesn't start doing the same.

Jonathan Crawford

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