Within months of bringing in Hollywood A-Lister Sarah Jessica Parker and the world’s highest paid male model David Gandy to the Philippines, the unstoppable retail giant that is SM Malls quietly pulled another coup last week, when they commissioned Scott Schuman—founder and editor of top global fashion blog, www.thesartorialist.com to shoot the advertising campaign of the group’s newest baby.
The American blogger and photographer who is behind the successful advertising campaigns of the world’s most recognizable fashion brands—from The Gap to Superga, Crate & Barrel to Tiffany, and Coach to Burberry—was literally in and out of Manila to do the same for SM Megamall’s much-awaited new wing, the Mega Fashion Hall.
Schuman flew into town on the evening of November 20 and took off again on the morning of November 22, leaving him just the day in between to click away at what he does best: Street-style photography.
“Yes! He shot 10 of our chosen men and women of style for the Mega Fashion Hall’s ad campaign on the streets of Ortigas, as well as the actual space in Mega Mall,” Millie Dizon, SM Group of Companies’ vice president for marketing and publicity, confirmed with The Manila Times. “Mr. Schuman pioneered street-style photography in the different fashion capitals of the world, and because of this project, Manila is now part of that.”
For those who have yet to discover the work of The Sartorialist, Schuman shot to fame in the mid-2000s when he started a blog with photographs of “real people” whose fashion sense appealed to him. His aim, then and now, is “to create a two-way dialogue about the world of fashion and its relationship to daily life.”
Since then, Schuman has been widely read by everyday folks and elite fashionistas around the world, primarily to pick up his keen eye for style. His remarkable brand of composition, however, has also turned him into a unique historian of sorts, whose body of work, albeit focused on fashion, reflects a city or a country’s realities at a particular time. Hence, Schuman’s work has been turned into best-selling books over the years, and more impressively featured as permanent collections at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
Extremely passionate about his approach in capturing styles that will eventually become markers of time, The Manila Times, in an intimate interview, discovered so much of what the Philippine fashion scene can become and hope for through Schuman’s razor-sharp eyes. This, as well as what the Filipinos’ emerging fashion sense says about them as a people, comprised an interview that is truly riveting and thus can only be told with the very words of The Sartorialist below.
Q: Despite your very quick visit to the Philippines, what has struck you about Philippine Fashion from what you’ve seen on the street and at SM Mega Mall today?
A: I think the thing that’s going to be very interesting here [in terms of fashion]is the growing middle class. In places like Rio (de Janeiro), Moscow, China, they’re really changing their whole fashion persona because they’ve also got a growing middle class. You see, it’s the middle class that has just enough money to play with fashion from brands like Zara, H&M and Uniqlo, where they can buy three sweaters and play with color; or buy fashion and mix genres and patterns and have fun with it. I think everything really starts from there.
I was really middle class myself when I was growing up, and I used my knowledge and ability in fashion to change my social status. It’s the same thing in Italy where [brands like]Armani, Versace and Dolce & Gabanna were middle class, but they used their ability to move up the social ring. You’ll see the very same thing happening here in Manila. It’s the growing middle class that’s really going to change the fashion landscape and not the high-end.
Q: Was specifically struck you during your shoot?
There’s definitely a lot of physical beauty here. The girls are beautiful the guys are handsome; and the girls are handsome, the guys are beautiful.
What I like from this region, and especially here, is that there’s a very wide and open acceptance of different kinds of sexuality—masculinity, femininity, and in between. I’m usually pretty good at this stuff but at the shoot today, I had to ask myself if that was a guy or a girl! And it was great!
I don’t know too much about society in general in the Philippines, but from the outside it seems like differences in sexuality is more accepted here than in other places.
Q: What is your philosophy in photography?
I love the history of photography, and I think my main (philosophy in photography) is that if it would be a photograph I’d want to look at later, and not simply documenting what the person is wearing. I’m not a photojournalist but I’m just very lucky that I’m a contemporary photographer whose photos are something people like to look at now. But I also hope they would like to look at them in the future in a way that they documented time and captured this time through fashion.
My favorite photographers are those who capture the time they live or lived in. And again, I’m fortunate that hundreds of years from now, people can not only look at my photographs but also the comments of people who looked at them at that time, and have a better understanding of the current situation back then. I’m not saying my photos will mean something historically but it will certainly say something about the time they were taken in.
I think of myself as a photographer, and the blog the format that I share my photographs with. I’d like to be remem-bered someday as a photograp her with a very, very strong fashion sense.
Q: The Philippine fashion industry considers it another coup by the SM Group for bringing you here among other international fashion celebrities to shoot their upcoming ad campaign. With you being here today, is it a signal that our country is now in the world’s fashion map?
A: I don’t even know if that’s important, to be in the “world’s fashion map.” Because the climate here so is specific, the fashion here will always be its own thing. Coming here for me is like going to a place where it’s really exciting to see what they do well (in terms of fashion). And like I said, I think as the middle class grows, it will be exciting to see what they come up with.
In saying all that, I have to remind you that what is restrictive can also be a strength. We know you’re never going to have mix a lot of textures and deal with mixing fur with leather—it’s too hot for that. But that restriction actually makes it easier.
You’re hopefully going to be very good at colors and mixing patterns. What’s fascinating is to deal with something available to you and do it with a slightly artistic taste, like say, mixing football with ballet. Or what’s happening in London and America where they go for a lot of vintage, and mix the 60s with the 70s—you can do that here.
And finally, you can also play with proportion—like big volume on top with say a lightweight skirt.
There’s so much that can be done, and for sure, I’ll keep an eye on you.
Q: How can you sum up your work in a sentence?
A: A lot of people say a photograph tells a story, but hopefully mine starts a story. I think a lot of people are inspired by my photos in the fashion industry because they can come up with their own story from what they see.
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Scott Schuman’s advertising campaign for the SM Group will be unveiled at the opening of the Mega Fashion Hall on December 12. The Mega Fashion Hall is the new multi-storey wing in SM Megamall’s Building B that will showcase an exciting mix of global fashion brands, beginning with Uniqlo, which opened this November.
For the ad campaign, Schu-man photographed jewelry designer Janina Dizon Hoschka; milliner and designer Mich Dulce; model Jessica Connelly, vocalist and tattoo artist Sarah Gaugler; mom and entrepreneur Kai Lim; Elite managing director Eughie Teng; fashion blogger and model Kim Jones; student and entrepreneur Mike Concepcion; football player Jonah Romero; and director Sid Maderazo.