Friday, June 30, 2006

Roaming N.Y. streets, hunting for fashion

Scott Schuman is becoming a tastemaker, all thanks to his blog

By Bruno J. Navarro

NEW YORK - Like a fashion hawk, Scott Schuman — The Sartorialist — spots his prey amid the bustle of downtown Manhattan’s crowded sidewalks one recent Saturday afternoon.

“Hold on,” he says, taking off with digital camera in hand to catch up to a lanky gentleman in a navy blazer, charcoal pants and rust-colored head scarf.

Schuman takes his picture and they chat for a few moments. The man explains he’s wearing a Japanese waiter’s head-covering to protect his scalp from the sun, and then he shows off the label on his blazer.

Schuman returns to our conversation, smiling.

“What did the label say?” I ask.

Yohji — a famous Japanese designer,” he says. “It’s at least $1,200.”

It’s that kind of expertise — gained through a career in high-end fashion sales and marketing — that led Schuman, 38, to start his increasingly popular, photo-laden fashion blog.

Launched in October with little fanfare, The Sartorialist combines Schuman’s street photography of fashionable New Yorkers with his detailed style commentary.

“I was getting kind of inspired listening to ESPN Sports Radio,” he says of how he first came up with his blog concept. “People can call in and agree or disagree. That was the basis: I can put in what I thought was really inspiring and people can put in their two cents.”

Schuman’s approach is notable for its overwhelmingly positive tone, not too common amid a world of snarky blogs and catty fashionistas. His straightforward photography is easily accessible.

These days, the site is popular enough that his subjects will occasionally recognize its name when Schuman approaches them, especially in the tony Upper East Side neighborhood — and the fashion industry.

Not bad for a kid from Indianapolis, far from the world’s fashion capitals.

“I was reading GQ when I was 14 and I loved it,” he says. “Now I’ve lived in New York for 16 years, and there were guys I saw in the street who were more inspiring than the guys in the magazines.”

In New York, his sales and marketing career took him to such high-profile brands as Valentino.

“That’s why my writing is different,” he says. “I’m not a typical journalist.”

A fan at Saks
Schuman has also owned his own showroom, which he gave up two years ago to become a stay-at-home dad.

“He’s tapped into such a specific niche market of men who care about fashion,” says Michael Macko, vice president and men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. “It’s not necessarily all fashionistas.”

Macko came across The Sartorialist this past winter and found himself checking in regularly.

“Finally, I sent him an e-mail. I thought, ‘I have to introduce myself to him,”” he says.

The contact turned into an opportunity for Schuman, who will be featured in a window display at the flagship store in August — although exactly how is unclear, as Macko says he wants room for surprises.

“We’re going to bring the blog to life in the window,” he says.

Schuman is also being featured in an upcoming issue of Esquire magazine and recently jetted off to Milan, home of his favorite men’s designer, after being tapped by to blog from there for the city's fashion week.

“I’ve always loved Armani,” he says. “This is like a football fan going to the Super Bowl.”

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