Sifting gravel for gold: Sartorialist X
It’s hard to be in fashion - let alone blogging - without being in awe of Scott Schuman. From its start as a record of New York street-style, his blog The Sartorialist has become an essential part of fashion, culture and beyond.
Schuman’s work has been acquired for the permanent collections at the V&A; his photography has appeared in shedloads of glossies. He has shot for Burberry, Levi’s, Absolut and Porsche. In 2012, he was awarded the CFDA Media Award. For a lone blogger, this is a hard act to follow.
Now Schuman launches his third book, Sartorialist X, to mark the blog’s tenth anniversary. It’s a ‘best of the best’ of the last three years, featuring portraits from all the fashion capitals - New York, London, Milan - as well as from more exotic destinations: cities in Peru, India, Dubai, and South Africa.
It is this mix that makes the book intriguing, if not controversial. Schuman’s signature is the diversity of characters in his work. In the introduction, Schuman writes: ’On the blog, some people have found this jarring and don’t understand how such a disparate assortment of ages, races and income levels can be presented in the same space.’ And yet, it's one of The Sartorialist's loveliest qualities. From fashion insiders to passers-by, everyone can be featured in Schuman’s work - as long, of course, if they have a ‘look.’
The recipe for that is as elusive as it is for any recipe for ‘style’ - and, because of that, more possible for the humble likes of you and I to achieve. In Sartorialist: X, it can be contained within pictures of the Hepburn look-a-like in her full floral skirt, reading a paper at Somerset House; in a gamine girl with blue bonnet and black fluffy coat, over blue tartan culottes, patterned tights and chunky red heels; in the fierce man, head shaved, in parka, padded jacket and black shorts, striding purposefully down the street, checking his phone; in portraits of Caroline Issa, stylist Ada Kokosar and editor of Vogue Italia Franca Sozzani.
It can equally be found in a dapper suit gent, selling vegetables in an Indian market, two lively Indian kids on their way to school; an Italian granny resplendent in floral pinny, legs rimed with veins and knots. It can even, shows Schuman, be found in a pair of camels, draped in tassels and pom poms, ridiculous and majestic in equal measure.
'Scott’s quest on the sidewalks of the world is like a gold miner sifting gravel for the rare pebbles of gold. Global fashion takes on new meaning through his work,' said Harold Koda, curator in charge, The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 'As his subjects confirm, compelling personal style knows no boundaries!'
There’s very little text, just the introduction and some paragraphs on the characters and places that inspire him - but Schuman himself is always reticent, preferring his images to do the talking. There are no page numbers either. In a 511-page tome, this feels deliberate, as if the author wants you to make your own links between images. What is certain is that you will put down the book, inspired, perhaps entrepreneurially, but certainly visually by the power of clothing - not fashion, mind, but clothing - to create a character, tell a story and express a personality.
Next, in perhaps an unsurprising move, Schuman will be turning to design, expanding the footwear collection he designed with Italian shoemaker Sutor Mantellasi last year and developing menswear. Like I said, a hard act to follow.
The Sartorialist X is published by Penguin Random House now.