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Scott Schuman: “Magazines are driven by fear”

September 28, 2011

Mr. Schuman, nowadays teenage bloggers like Tavi Gevinson are getting flown around the world to sit on the front rows of fashion shows in order to write about them. Isn’t that getting a little absurd?

Well I don’t think her audience is that big. I think her success is a little bit of a conspiracy by established print media that wanted to show that this blog thing is not that important, that it’s done by a bunch of twelve year olds. But a lot of us are serious grown-ups. I think it’s great that Tavi can create a blog and write for other people that are like-minded – probably other kids around her age – but I don’t know how that is going to help a 26-year old, if she has never had a boyfriend or any of that kind of stuff. She’s just a kid, so she can talk about art and stuff only in an abstract way.

Do you think she is going to last?

She might grow into that position, but to me it is like a five-year old Michael Jackson singing about love – to him they are just words. It is just an abstract concept. One of the other problems of many blogs like Tavi’s is that they are people who write about fashion, but in order to have a visual element they steal pictures from other people.

And the pictures they do take themselves often look terrible…

True and as soon as they start getting some real advertisement, all the people they have been stealing pictures from are going to call and say, “I need some money. Why do you keep stealing my pictures?” So for blogs to take the next step, they have to have people like me who are in charge of all the elements – the writing, the visual, everything. Those are the ones companies can buy into, because I control everything. For someone like Tavi to take the next step, she is going to have to go out and get a photographer to shoot everything.

Do you read any other fashion blogs?

No not really. The only one I look at is my girlfriend Garance Dore. To me she is the game-changer right now. She is a great writer, she does video, illustration, and photography. I look at her and I get jealous because she is so artistic in so many different ways – she does great illustrations, heart-felt writing, beautiful photography, and inspiring videos. She is funny, consistent, and her point of view on fashion is great. So that is the only blog that I look at on a consistent basis.

Do you fear competition as more and more copycats of your website The Sartorialist appear online?

No because in order to do it with any longevity you actually have to make a business out of it and actually be able to make money. They might do it for a little while, but it’s hard to keep the passion to do it until you make money with it. And as soon as they start making money, if they are not controlling that, all the money is going to go right out to all those people they are taking stuff from. So I don’t know how a lot of them are going to make a business out of it.

Talking about financial benefits. Do you make money off your blog or do you make money because of what you have created around your blog?

Both.

How?

American Apparel bought advertising for the whole year and then I just got an email yesterday that Net-A-Porter.com is going to buy advertisements for the rest of the year (2010) as well. So those two ads alone are a good fraction of a million dollars: more than a quarter million and less than a half a million. The key for me, and for Garance also, is like any good business: diversity. I make money from shooting campaigns and editorials, from prints, the rerelease of my photos in different magazines, and from doing personal appearances. I make money from a bunch of different places.

So are the times when a blog couldn’t make any money over?

Yes, the blog itself is really making money. My audience is so much larger than everybody else’s that advertisers, well at least American Apparel told me that I am not in their internet budget. My order is so big and they have to pay so much that I am actually in their magazine budget. That comes from having a good size audience.

Also the price of an ad on your page for a whole year is still fairly cheap compared to, let’s say, a double page in a big fashion magazine.

Oh yeah definitely. But I think the thing that has worked really well, and this is potentially a new day in media, is that what they are buying into is not just the image but also the amount of integrity. The thing that I am very proud of is, even though they bought ads for an entire year, I have no relationship with my advertisers; I have no contact with them.

They are not calling you saying, “Every month we need to have this and that.”

No, there is nothing. I don’t think of them as advertisers; I think of them like a sponsor. They are kind of sponsoring the site. They let me go out there and do my thing.

Have magazines lost their integrity because of the power advertisers have?

I think everyone knows not to believe in magazines anymore, they know that magazines are just page after page of advertisers.

What do you mean?

Magazines are driven by fear: they have to keep these advertisers and do these things for them. But now blogs have grown so big that I get emails like that all the time. But we know, Garance and I, that the thing for us is the level of integrity so we just don’t do it.

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Short Profile

Name: Scott Schuman
DOB:
10 January 1968
Place of Birth:
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Occupation:
Blogger, Photographer

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136 Responses to this Interview

  1. mr schuman, if youre so happy about being rich, why are you jealous of a teenager? im 27 and i love tavi’s blog. perhaps you should stick to staying behind the lens.

  2. Talking about “art,” an abstract subject, and “stuff” an abstract concept, in an abstract way is the only way TO talk about it, regardless of what age you are. It appears that Mr. Schuman believes he and his girlfriend have the patent on pithy (albeit often formulaic and predictable) fashion faddism and he doesn’t feel like sharing the limelight. It’s presumptuous and myopic of this grown-up to use Tavi’s age as the sole matrix by which to judge her taste level and life’s experience, and immature and ungenerous to dismiss the relevancy of her work (whether or not you appreciate it) with such a contemptible tone. How he, a photographer who revels in cataloguing an industry that worships the young, has the gall to slander a young lady for attempting to play in his sandbox because she’s just a “kid” smacks of hypocrisy at best, and juvenile cattiness at worst.

    • couldn’t have put it better myself. What a revolting outlook from the eyes of someone who makes his living off capturing beauty.

  3. “Serious grown-ups” are capable of expressing an opinion without trashing someone else. Mr. Shuman had an opportunity to speak about his accomplishments. Instead, it was he who acted like a 16-year old, trying to be the coolest kid in the room. Calm down, Mr. Shuman…we love your work, even if we follow other blogs too.

  4. With the economy in the state that it is, this article was unfortunate for Scott. There are honest, hard-working readers out there that adore fashion, but can’t even imagine making a fraction of what he says he makes off of his advertisements. Yes, fashion is a business, but for the majority of his readers it’s about indulging in a little fantasy. I found it distasteful for him to share his earning and put down other hard working bloggers.

    I’ve been following his blog for awhile, but after his remarks about the yukata in Japan being a new kimono “trend” and now this article, I’m afraid I will not be visiting his blog.

  5. I really enjoy that he talked money in this interview. It seemed more matter-of-fact than gloating and it’s good inspiration to those who still think you can’t make a living from blogging. I know some people think it’s tacky to talk about money but I for one enjoy hearing about the possibilities, if you have equal parts luck and talent.

    • Agreed. People may find it tacky but it is certainly nice to see transparency on this subject. I don’t believe he was gloating either, rather just stating what is going on with him. He seems to be an honest person, perhaps too honest given his opinion on Tavi’s blog…nonetheless, I’m diggin’ it.

  6. Every single Interview and feature this guy is in, he just can’t help but to come accross as an arrogant pig.

    Tommy Ton shit’s all over Scott Schuman’s work.

  7. I do not respect this man or what some are calling his “honesty.” Yes, congratulations for being forthright about the obvious– that publishing is a cutthroat business. And good for you for earning between a quarter and half a million dollars in advertising dollars.

    But there’s no grace or style in his words. There’s no art to his opinions. Just a lot of fear that people might enjoy blogs other than his or his girlfriend’s.

  8. Welp, I think he’s just being HONEST. And whether anyone wants to admit it, he’s pretty much 100% right. So what if he didn’t decide to sugar-coat his thoughts and opinions? That IS what we want from bloggers right? For them to be 100% real, and not do/say what the masses like just to remain popular?

    He is out on the streets daily, doing actual work. He’s probably annoyed by Tavi’s success when honestly her blog is more popular because of her age, not for her content.

    Regardless of my opinion or yours though, HE’S THE F**KING SARTORIALIST. I don’t think this article will effect much more than a few individual views.

    :)

    http://vintagecomplex.blogspot.com

    • I don’t think it’s fair to just say he’s the SARTORIALIST so he gets to say what he wants and we should all bow down to it. He comes off as an arrogant jerk and maybe that’s what he was going for. Whatever. I like some of his photos, but he isn’t the only one out there and not everyone has the same taste. He needs to accept that fact that there are other markets and people will like and prefer different bloggers. Don’t attack other bloggers because it isn’t your niche or whatever.

  9. Have to say that I’m diappointed I ever read this article. I personally love The Sartorialist, along with a number of other blogs, and think Scott IS both fabulously talented and a sharp businessman. But no amount of success, talent or experience excuses one from handling themselves with grace and class – and those were the two qualities most emphatically missing in Scott’s interview. One can be honest, straightforward and proud and still be gracious and classy, e.g.:
    Wrong: “My audience is so much larger than everybody else’s…”
    Right: “Because my audience is considerably larger than that of the average blog’s…”
    Wording makes a world of overall difference.
    And by the way… I am, in fact, 17 years old – only 2 years Tavi’s senior. It would appear that while Scott’s concept of art may be greater than that of myself and my peers, we have surpassed him in tact. :/ Again, disappointing… but still love the blog.

  10. You don’t really need to read this interview to find out that he’s arrogant? Just look at the photo at the top. It pretty much says it all…

  11. This interview is very revealing. Scott Schuman knows the game he’s playing and isn’t shy about flaunting his successes and even wielding his influence to aggrandize his girlfriend. However, note in particular how he’s honest about everything other than the fact that he has decided to profit by feeding into his audience’s desire to believe that Schuman is the genius photographer that accidently discovers candid, natural and intuitive sartorial style on the streets. Schuman says that magazines run on fear, but all they’re doing is sticking to a business model that turns the most profit, and he is doing the same. Schuman continues to pretend that he keeps on finding all these sartorial goldmines when his content is a result of having more access to exclusive circles of fashion professionals whose job is to dress well, or asking his contacts to self-style themselves specifically for the purpose of creating content for his blog. This interview would have still been arrogant, but also respectable if Schuman had admitted to all truths related to his media and economic success. However, admitting to how his blog is a farce, would shatter the fantasy that he continues to sell. 

    Also, why does he even deal with the issue of young bloggers if he is truly confident? Most of them are students or dependents who don’t have to concern themselves with making profit off of their blogs, unlike Schuman. However, his critique of them shows that for some illogical reason he sees them a threat. As a father of two daughters, it’s unfortunate that he can’t see how individuals like Tavi Gevinson are driven by the sense of community and camaraderie they gain through blogging their ideas and inspirations. If he truly believes the creative, artistic and innovative aspect of fashion, Schuman should be able to accept that all people, regardless of their age, race or gender, have relevant opinions and views to share concerning fashion. Him condemning Gevinson because of her age is very narrow-minded and immature. 

  12. I don’t understand why people can’t take criticism. Especially in fashion, it is the very thing that most fashion editors and bloggers avoid doing in order to keep healthy relationships with their advertisers. Scott Schuman doesn’t judge Tavi based on her personality, he’s judging her based on the work she’s done so far, and for a person who has had far more experience in the working world than she has, he has perspective. So what if he doesn’t like her work? That’s just business.
    If you can’t handle other professionals voicing how they dislike your work, then you either grow thicker skin or go home. The fashion bloggers who are really passionate about their work will keep trucking on, despite the nay-sayers.
    I say good going Scott, I’m still your fan.

  13. I am completely astounded by Scott’s answers.
    They are horrifying.
    And he doesn’t just make one gaffe, he continues on to cement for us that how he views the world is quite grotesque, unlike his photos.
    Is this the yin to his yang?

  14. Some of you actually are standing up for Tavi? Are you that dense? You are actually taking the bait? Anyone with an IQ greater than Tavi’s age can see she is a marketing creation courtesy her mother and/or her friends. I mean really now.

  15. I hate to say this as I’m not the biggest sartorialist fan but he’s right even if maybe he could have found a more diplomatic way of putting his ideas. He was asked a question and he answered, obviously truthfuly. How much can a teenager really know about the fashion world and art apart from that which he or she sees in magazines and on tv. Thats third hand knowledge so it would be better for the reader to go directly to the source. Fashion, art, literature is all based on life experiences and vision.
    His comment about tavi taking images is correct, as a photographer I’m happy to let bloggers use my images but as soon as they have advertising on their site, I expect payment… If Tavi wants to be treated as a grownup she should run her site like one…

  16. He’s 43 and blogging is his main occupation? I’m sorry, but I’m 25 and I stopped blogging because I thought it was a little juvenile. This guy is getting an elevated sense of worth off the back of other people’s sense of style. Yes, he has good taste but so does my grandmother.

  17. He needs to cheer up, it’s suppose to be fun Scottie. But, I also don’t understand what it is everyone is so jealous about with this guy. His blog is great just accept it. People don’t look at the blog because they like him. It’s because they like what it shows. Anyway, I don’t know why he looks so depressed all the time. Maybe it’s because he has to bug people on the street to get their photo. Maybe it’s this and the fact he has to hang out with a lot pretentious fashionistas everyday that makes him down. It would get me down. That’s why he is so proud (happy) his sponsors leave him alone because he doesn’t want to be bothered. This young girl seems to make him unhappy just by doing what he is doing, and enjoying it. Her age undermines his maturity and the fact she is probably making twice what he is on. Sorry I just can’t remember ever seeing Schuman smile.

  18. I always liked his shots but had no idea what a self centred, uneloquent person he was until now…. and as I work in menswear I’d never come across Tavi’s blog. I checked it out and its great!

  19. Schuman is saying that people don’t believe in magazines anymore because they have a ton of advertising? NEWS FLASH Scott. Advertising is where YOUR money is coming from.

  20. Calm down! A litle bit of telling-it-like-it-is in the fashion world is a refreshing change. Scott’s not being bitchy , just living in the real world. And he makes some interesting points – what he says about magazines is spot-on.

    (That said, the Sartorialist really could do to feature a few stylish women over 25 – it’s all older men and pretty young girls.)

  21. this dude makes a living taking pictures of people wearing clothes.

  22. ah, mr. Schuman is now among the established order in the fashion industry and he is so arrogant happy about it!!

  23. But what does he mean that he controls everything in his blog? He takes photos of people on the street. He didn’t put the clothes on them, right? He didn’t style their hair or put on their makeup or directed them. So he really just takes pictures of creative and stylish people. Sure, that means he’s got a great eye for style but he didn’t CREATE that style. What’s he talking about?

    • Off course he is no stylist who puts clothes on people. But creating a style is not the only important thing, it’s just the beginnig. To be noticed as a style, it has to be shown to the public or at least to a defined group. And that is what he does. He put’s a spotlight on styles – just like a curator. And belonging to that he really is in control. He decides whom he takes a picture of, which pictures are shown on his website and so which style is in his spotlight.

  24. I think many readers totally misinterpreted what Scott was trying to explain in his interview! And all of you who saying how disappointed you are or I don’t know how offended you feel, please don’t be that ‘narrowminded’!

  25. This makes me so sad, because I enjoy “The Sartorialist.” Anybody who thinks his achievements justify his unpleasantness must see the world very differently from the way I do. The word “integrity,” which Scott uses in his last response, comes from a Latin term, “integra,” that means “complete.” A complete man would know that it is easier and cheaper to be disdainful than it is to be kind.

  26. I think its great that he shared his insight on the business aspect of blogging. The truth of the matter is, we all don’t want that starving artist image, we aspire to settle down, have a nice family, and be stable. It’s time for corporations to settle down, and give the reigns back to the true independent artist, and those smart enough to have control over their creativity. Take note everybody.

  27. All I read is a guy saying you can’t replace life experience, then talking about his success and the money he made from it and sharing his opinion on the magazine industry while giving a shout out to his girl. The interview wasn’t about fashion but business. So that it might inspire (or not) other bloggers who would like to make a career out of their passion. At least, I did not end up thinking “why aren’t you answering the goddamn question?” So respect!

  28. I’m glad that SS and his readership don’t really represent the world of fashion as a whole. Honestly it has never seemed to me that he is a very well respected guy one step away from “the streets.” Fashion is about a lot of things, but in it most elated state it should seek to elevate the utilitarian article to something more akin to art. Ok ok there is money involved on some level and it is good to discuss that aspect if it is relevant. But come on; he is a 30 something blogger with a nouveau riche swagger (even though the money he is flaunting is quite laughable really), poor camera skills and a totally uninteresting personal story and point of view. Pathetic.

    In the end I am left feeling that this is a sad guy that has very little to contribute. And I am sure he is reading these posts with that same glib expression as in the photo feeling like “fashions Bad Boy” while fashion’s true bad boys -Vivienne Westwood anyone? – found ways to express themselves through haute couture, while Scott seems to have just taken the haute part of that idea to heart.

  29. He comes off as rather pretentious and very insecure masked in entitlement.
    His disdain towards magazines selling pages to advertiser is rather ironic as he is also selling space of his blog to advertisers. Also his opinion towards Tavi could have been said classier instead of coming out as a scared big wolf afraid of a little kitten.
    I do love his blog but I am not a fan of him as a human being.

  30. I’m not one to believe in rumors, but someone once told me from GQ that he’s an @ss to work with. Of course I didn’t believe this, but after working with him recently it definitely confirmed it. If you’re not anyone important, you will be treated like dirt. I’ve seen him make his interns do a lot of labor work. He might be an @ss, but aside from his personality I still think he’s a really talented photographer. Garance is definitely more talented. I guess like Oprah once said, “if you’re a jerk in life, then your just a bigger jerk on camera. You are what you are just magnified on camera.” Something along the lines of that…

  31. Woefully Uninformed

    Mr. Schuman would do well to check his facts.
    Tavi does not earn any money from her blog, and has in fact turned down advertising offers for her blog. Therefore, she is not infringing copyrights or earning money from other poeple’s work. Her blog was created for personal enjoyment.
    Furthermore, she frequently posts her own pictures, usually outfits she put together herself, and uses not only her own camera and a tripod to take photos, but occasionally personal friends who are photographers.
    It is also rather pathetic that he does not credit her success to her talent but merely because journalsits decided to take an interest to her, because he then turns around and attempts to plug his girlfriend’s blog.
    Oh, and Tavi doesn’t try to tell adults about the adult world. She doesn’t pretend to have experienced things that she has not. The comparison to a young Michael Jackson is embarrassingly foolish. That’s the beauty of her blog, It is unapologetically the things that Tavi wants to write about because they interest her and they apply to her life. She doesn’t write in an attempt to be flown to fashion week or to try and attract free samples of the things she wants. Tavi writes for herself and is gratefully thrilled for all the opportunities it has afforded her.

    • ‘Nuff said. I really admired both Scott’s and Garance’s tight sense of aesthetic, but Tavi’s blog and Rookiemag is what inspires and excites me, she is creating an abstract of images just as he has claimed. I have often wondered about how his look is so arrogant and finally he outs himself.

  32. You would think with all its success, The Sartorialist could run off something other than Blogspot…

  33. Whoa… I’m just really happy I’m not one of his two daughters. Can you imagine having a father who considers young girls nothing more than silly little babbling creatures who have no talent or vision whatsoever? Very encouraging, uh…

  34. it’s because he’s short.

  35. Right or wrong is not the issue here, as I believe everybody has the right to expression their opinions, even if they do lack grace and make you sound like a jealous insecure dick.

    With that said, Scott’s statement’s here show everything I hate about everything that I love. I love art, music, fashion, writing…all creative avenues. But it never fails that I am extremely turned off by pompous artist-types, who are merited by their talent, but think they are untouchable. What usually happens to these artists is that they eventually fizzle. And they are left wondering why the world no longer loves them. Oh well…tides change, and the tide will change on Scott as well.

    In regards to Tavi, never under estimate your competition, especially when your estimation is based on age. Let’s not forget about the talents of young Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.

  36. Ugh, just found this article via one of the young fashion bloggers he thinks he’s better than. His blog is crap… I totally dropped it for streetpeeper. MUCH better street fashion and less ego-centric yakety-yak from a man who thinks he’s a visionary. Schuman is a major douche just like 99.9999% of these “fashion people”.

  37. i was taken aback by his responses as well and can’t seem to get beyond his tone. read some of the comments…perhaps he w-a-s just being open and saying things matter of factly? there’s an audio clip of the interview! yes, that would clear things up and prove that he wasn’t what he seemed to be! ummmm no, actually he was bragging :( dag, i do so enjoy his blog.

  38. LOL does he need to be jealous really? == u adore tavi cause your the tavi-kind he mentioned, the five-year-old Michael Jackson singing about love. Hes mature enough to be honest and not care about ur opinions, u haters really.

  39. His comparison to Michael Jackson doesn’t support his claim, stating that because MJ was young singing about love, and she is young writing about fashion, she is not going to continue to be successful. Hello? MJ became one of the most influential music artists of our generation!! I would love for her to do the same just to prove this guy erroneous!

  40. Sorry I’m a bit late to see this but I honestly think The Sartorialist is a great blog and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else than a streetstyle blog involving pictures of other people that define Scott’s taste in fashion and photography, as well as interesting images from other periods he finds.

    Tavi’s style is clearly very different, her’s a more personal approach to fashion and involves self-styled outfits and more amateurish photos, but with witty and interesting comments on fashion and her lifestyle that people can relate to.

    They’re both really great blogs and it’s a shame that Scott should feel ‘threatened’ by Tavi while it is understandable as none of those who love fashion want it to be perceived as frivolous either.

    Scott’s words could have been more eloquently put, for sure, but I just don’t think people should judge a man’s work by his character, however pompous and arrogant it may appear to be in an interview. The subtleties of human expression apparent in body language may not be translated fully in a transcribed verbal interview that took place in a certain context and timeframe.

    The people choose to misinterpret Scott’s words and not regard a good blog because of that risk a point of view on fashion that is equally valid and reasonable as Tavi’s.

  41. The man is refreshing. He just dropped off a world of knowledge and wisdom about business and the business of blogging. Realistically, he’s right on every point and free to have bias if he likes. There aren’t many willing to be this honest, especially online. As a photographer in his category, he’s the best and his criticisms are purely constructive. Take the information and run with it.

  42. People that support what Schuman says are just sad little worshippers. Anyone that is truly confident and successful in what they do would NEVER knock anyone else in the same field of work. You only do that if you’re jealous. The girl is only 15 and she’s already achieved such amazing success. She’s even done a Ted talk. Mr.Schuman obviously measures his success by how much he makes and the amount of followers and advertisers he has. I’m glad Tavi’s not out there shooting her own photos yet because that means she has time to do her homework! Considering the girl has school full-time and still manages to have a great blog and to be an editor-in-chief of an online magazine is quite remarkable. Plus, she talks about far more interesting things than just fashion and style.

    I think it’s absurd that the mighty Sartorialist is intimidated by a 15 year old girl.

  43. I’m frankly impressed. Schuman keep saying editors living in fear , that every page of a magazine it’s just a matter of money and advertisers – which it is, obviously – but he’s the first who’s just talk about money. A lot of editorials maybe can be considered fashion adv but this what you take in a world where “the image” overcome. We’re talking about fashion. So, what’s the real difference between magazine and blogs? Are the uomini-pavoni (peacock-men) shooted outside Pitti in Florence really so different from the models in a magazine editorial? At least, they don’t pretend to look like reality. I’m sorry Mr. Schuman you just don’t get the point.

  44. To think that this industry would be open to creativity and awareness no matter the age, unfortunately disappoints me time and time again. Scott you are one part of this industry that doesn’t need to be heard. Just take those damn pictures and don’t ever talk again.

  45. This interview is from two years ago. I am not so sure if he has managed to keep hist integrity during all this time. The latest example is the colaboration he has done with a cheap Spanish clothes brand. He wrote a post sharing the beautiful campaign’s pictures, bellow a note stating: ‘I don’t know how they do it, but x are offering very good style at very good price’. It is well known that the brand, among others, had been involved in the notorious Bangladesh Factory Collapse. So, the ‘i don’t know how they do it’ doesn’t sound exactly ‘correct’ to me. I have followed his blog since the beginnins, but things like this make me respect him less and less.

    http://www.thesartorialist.com/photos/the-sartorialist-for-h-e-by-mango/

  46. Well I guess, returning to this article a few years later, Tavi has done quite well for herself since this interview which I think is wonderful!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2508045/Teen-super-blogger-Tavi-Gevinson-looks-grown-Cole-Haans-holiday-campaign-starring-Talented-Gifted-individuals.html

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