IBJ STYLE: Scott Schuman: From L.S. Ayres to 'The Sartorialist'

August 17, 2009

A little fashionable Hoosier history: Before The Oceanaire Seafood Room took over, its Meridian Street space was home to L.S. Ayres & Co.’s very distinguished men’s department. In the Fitzgerald Room, where all the designer labels resided, a young and impressionable Scott Schuman could be found admiring the Armani. “It was so chic and quiet,” he said recently. “I think that was one of the main places that fueled my curiosity about fashion.”

Most people today don’t know him as Scott Schuman, and they certainly wouldn’t guess his sharp eye for style began to focus in Indianapolis. To most of the 125,000 people who visit his blog every day, he’s only “The Sartorialist.”

A quarter century after he graduated from Warren Central High School (alongside NFL quarterback Jeff George, whom he does not recall being stylish), Schuman’s blog has turned this Indiana University-trained fashion marketer and self-trained photographer into a world-class fashion shutterbug and most recently, an author. His book “The Sartorialist” will hit stores Aug. 25.

The 2-inch thick tome of select street photos represents a spectrum of style we rarely see walking down Meridian Street, but that’s the point. Sure, I probably won’t ever wear purple tights with turquoise T-strap sandals like a girl pictured in front of the Eiffel Tower, but I like knowing she did.

It seems like such a simple idea, to just photograph people who look cool. But Schuman has done more than just capture people wearing clothes. He’s found the people who wear them best, no matter who they may be.

As he prepared for his next shoot—one for Italian Vogue in Montauk, N.Y.—I was able to ask him a few questions about Indiana, fame and of course, clothes.

IBJ: Usually people are more interested in what’s in front of the camera when it comes to fashion, not behind it. Was changing that part of your objective?

SS: No. It’s never been about me. But what I have learned is people want to know whose point of view the photos come from. They want to know who thought that outfit was great, so I became “The Sartorialist.”

IBJ: Do you think you’ll ever shoot photos for the blog in Indianapolis?

SS: I’ve never done it, but I think it would be interesting. When you go somewhere, you have to accept it for what it is. Indiana is a very innocent place, so it would be fun to photograph that.

IBJ: What do you look for?

SS: I don’t really know, actually. I don’t really get caught up in deep thoughts when I’m taking photographs. I just look for things that surprise me, like something shiny I guess. That’s the integrity of it—I have no ulterior motives.

IBJ: As a fashion student at IU, where did you shop?

SS: Chicago, mostly. When I was in school my mom took me to Raleigh’s at the Fashion Mall to look for my first interview suit. She was going to buy me Armani because that’s what I really wanted, but we ended up empty-handed. I probably knew more about Armani than any of the salespeople at that store, but they treated me like I’d never heard the name before.

But that search is part of what I came to love most about fashion school in Indiana. Nothing in the magazines was readily available, so I had to go searching for it. There was no Style.com, and magazines weren’t even publishing photos of whole collections yet. I think working harder for things like that helped prove to myself this was really the business I wanted to be in.•


If you’d like to share your own style ideas or know anyone who’s making waves in the fashion community, contact Gabrielle at gposhadlo@ibj.com. This column appears monthly.


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