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15 Minutes With The Sartorialist

World-renowned street style photographer Scott Schuman visits Manila for a day of style-spotting.
15 Minutes With The Sartorialist World-renowned street style photographer Scott Schuman visits Manila for a day of style-spotting.

Anyone who’s into fashion and photography knows who Scott Schuman is. Better known as The Sartorialist, the 45-year old Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Media Honoree defined what street style photography is, changing the game through his authentic view of personal style, and knack for capturing that quiet grace from real people who aren’t necessarily fashion bigwigs, but stylish all the same. 

Read on as we list down the 12 things we’ve learned about Scott and find out what sets him apart from everybody else in his field.

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1. He got into fashion as early as 7th grade.

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“I got into fashion in Junior High. I thought everybody’s life in the fashion magazines look more fun than my life—girls are more beautiful, guys are more handsome. It looked like they were doing more fun stuff. So the idea of that really intrigued me.”

2. He also worked in construction (and made a mess).

“One summer, I worked for a friend of mine who owned some kind of a company that did air conditioning or something like that. I just had to tear stuff down. And I didn’t do it very well. I almost killed myself. I made a mess, that’s all I did. They asked me not to come back.” (laughs)

3. His love for photography stemmed from flipping the pages of GQ and Vogue.

“When I was young and looking at GQ or Vogue, it was an idea of a life, most of the time it was kind of imaginary, not the real thing but it still made me dream. The world came to me through the magazines. I look at the photographs and imagine what that world must be like.  From there, I learned how to create my own kind of imaginary world. I think people relate to my photographs in the same way. The difference is that mine’s reality-based, there really are people who dress like that and go around the world. So maybe my version is just a similar version, just slightly different.”

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4. He considers Alessandro Squarzi, a fashion executive in Milan, as one of his style inspirations.

“I think he influences my style because we kinda look a little bit alike, we could pass off as brothers. He influenced my style because we were built the similar way and I like the way he dresses. So I thought it was smart to kind of use him as a reference.”

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5. He still refuses to wear cowboy boots.

“I’ve often cited cowboy boots as my number one pet peeve. So no, I still don’t own a pair. Maybe someday. Just not yet.”

6. Fashion wasn’t really discussed at home, and his parents didn’t care about fashion at all.

“My parents were only interested in trying to raise a healthy family and didn’t really care about fashion at all. That’s why I found it so romantic. It was a totally, totally different world. Now that I look back at photos of our old house and stuff, I realized that they actually had great style. They always bought really interesting antiques and mixed it in a very interesting way.  But we never had Vogue magazines sitting around. It was never anything discussed, at least around us. So it’s odd, I would’ve thought it was funny listening to my mom and dad decorate the living room because my dad would just never do that.”

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7. To him, being famous is not that important.

“I always knew I wanted to do something important. I always knew I wanted to be in the fashion world and do something important in the fashion world; it’s not about being famous. Being famous is not that important. Being important is doing something that changes that game that people will notice because of the quality of the work.”

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8. He had not picked up a camera before he was 30.  

“I took me while to find what my niche was. I kept evolving—I did sales and marketing, I didn’t have so much fun with that, so I took design classes when I was in school, and I could see I wasn’t a great designer. So I just kept moving a little bit here and a little bit there until I found what really worked well for me. I haven’t picked up a camera before I was 30.”  

9. Winning the CFDA Media Award with girlfriend and fellow blogger Garance Dore tops his list of memorable winning moments.

“When we won the CFDA Award, we were probably the youngest people to win that. Usually it’s like a lifetime achievement award and I was shocked when they gave it to us so young.  Also, having two books already is crazy. I can’t even believe I already have two books and the fact that the two books sold very well is a huge surprise.”

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10. He adores his girlfriend, Garance Dore, and considers her as his number one critic.

“She influences me more in a challenging way. When she does something great, she makes me want to find my own new thing and surprise her. So it’s not in a competitive way, it’s more of how we surprise each other. We like to challenge each other that way. I’m her biggest fan. She’s a genius at what she does and we both respect each other’s opinion and we both tell each other what we think about our work and how to evolve and go forward.”

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11. Piece of advice for wanna-be street style photographers: Read a lot of photography books and study fashion.

“A lot of people are just reporting what people wear, and that’s kind of boring. But I think if you have a lot of photography books and you have some kind of reference, whether its Brassai, Bruce Davidson, Helen Levitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, you’ll have some kind of a take in fashion or a take in photography. I see it all the time in fashion week, someone will stop you and say ‘I wanna take a picture of your outfit.' So they would face them in a basic way and then the person walks away and then you see that the back of the dress is all cutout and beautiful and sexy. But the photographer took the picture in the typical way, which is at the front when he should’ve taken it at the back, which is the more interesting part. So the good advice would be to learn more about photography, and learn more about fashion. Learn more how to have an opinion on why you think that person’s dressed well or interesting and then try to communicate that in the image.”

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12. He’s excited to see more of Philippine fashion and intends to visit Manila more often.

“I can tell people love fashion here. The girls are beautiful; the guys are handsome. It’s a great lifestyle, there’s a great physicality about the city. Everyone seems to be going to the beach and do something to stay in shape. I love the acceptance of so many different types of femininity and masculinity and everything in between, and I think it would be really interesting to see what happens here over the next couple of years.”

Curious to see Scott’s take on Manila’s street style? Stay tuned to find out who were the lucky ones who caught his eye for an exciting campaign happening in the next few days.