The Sartorialist Likes D.C.’s Personality, Sees Room for Improvement
Scott Schuman, the photographer/blogger better known as The Sartorialist, was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night signing his latest book for Politics and Prose at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Chinatown.
HOH caught up with him after several hours of signing books and taking pictures to get his thoughts on where D.C. is on the spectrum of stylish cities (we’re not), whether first lady Michelle Obama has style (she doesn’t) and how he feels about President Barack Obama naming super fundraiser and Vogue Editor Anna Wintour ambassador to England (not a great idea).
HOH: How was tonight?
SS: Great. Everyone was very nice.
And how was D.C. style?
I thought everyone in line was very chic. Everyone is very pleasant.
Well, that’s nice. Everyone has a great personality.
I think it’s like anything. D.C. has great potential. When [a city] is spread out like [Washington] I think it’s probably hard when one person is doing an interesting thing here and someone else is doing an interesting thing there.
I think it probably helps in a place like New York or Paris; they become fashion capitals because it is so compact.
Like in Milan, everywhere you turn, you see someone crazy chic, because they got fashion there and furniture design. All these things are so design-centric, so compressed.
Here you have people you can tell have a good take, they look [at blogs] like mine and things, but there is nothing like seeing other people here and there to give it that last little tweak.
The edit, but I think it is also, it’s the balls to take a little more chance.
I see this in Chicago too, people have good style, but they don’t have the confidence maybe to do something unexpected. They want to be fashionable so they do something “expected fashionable,” as opposed to doing something unexpected.
And I think that’s the big difference between places like Paris and London and New York and places like Chicago and D.C., places like that. [Cities like D.C.] have to take a little more chances.
Like today, I put up a picture of a girl I know a little bit and she had on a hoodie, a fur coat and to me there is just something funny about that. It’s fun and you know that she is having fun.
In a city like D.C. — where for some people power, not money or acclaim, is a goal — is it important to dress for the part with style? Or do you dress back, clamp down on individual style? What do you think the intersection between style and power is? Is there one?
The only power “style” can give you is the power to communicate [to the community] you want to fit into. I tried to get into it a little bit [in the book], but I should have written it better. My dad would say, “I don’t care about fashion. I don’t care about style.” And I would say, “Yes, you do. You look like every other golfer in this community. You don’t care about ‘fashion’ style, but you care about style, because you look like all those other guys.”
I don’t think that fashion gives you any kind of power, but it’s a tool of communication. It’s like music. It tells people — even a regular guy, an everyday guy, or even a “Joe six-pack” — [how to belong]. He knows exactly what jersey to wear. What number is the cool number to wear from that team.
I don’t think [style has] any other power then the power to communicate to the group you want to fit into and you want to be with. And if that gives you power … that probably gives you a certain perception of … power’s not the right word, but [cool].
What do you think about first lady Michelle Obama’s style? Do you think she has style?
To me people — you see it in the first book, you see it in this book … most of these people, it’s not about who they are [their titles, their jobs], but it is about the abstract concept of who they are. Like this (he flips to a page in the book) is Franca [Sozzani], the editor of Italian Vogue, and her name isn’t in [the book]. I know who she is, maybe some people know who she is. She’s a powerful woman, but what I like about her is that she’s always smiling, she’s always happy. She’s the opposite of [American Vogue Editor] Anna Wintour.
What is it about Michelle Obama that you think she doesn’t have style?
That’s the thing. I just don’t think about it.
I’m very unpolitical. The entire political thing, I don’t want to say it’s not interesting, but it’s not interesting. It doesn’t matter who it is.
What do you think about Anna Wintour maybe being named ambassador to England?
You know what? Hey, I think whatever. … I think there are others within the fashion field who would maybe be better-suited.
How perfectly diplomatic.