Single-handedly responsible for popularising, even inventing, street style photography, Scott Schuman’s now-iconic blog The Sartorialist has been an essential bookmark in the browsers of every single person in the fashion industry for the past decade. Emirates Woman caught up with the photographer at Fashion Forward Season Six…

In an unusually sensible quote, longtime-fan Kanye West called him ‘a historian’, pointing out the importance of the Indiana-born photographer’s work. He charts the streets – the real barometer of the times – with an unparalleled eye for style and beauty, earning his blog a whopping 14 million hits a month. With two books under his belt and a third one newly-published, Scott’s star shows no sign of waning.

Ahead of his talk on Saturday at Fashion Forward Dubai, we sat down with the man whose blog launched a thousand copycats – and who set into motion the tidal-wave of street style that has gone on to transform the fashion landscape for good.

Emirates Woman: This is your second time in Dubai, did you have any preconceptions before you first visited?

Scott Schuman: No, not at all! Because I travel so much, and because of what I do, it’s best to not have any preconceptions – just to go and see and react. I’m also quite lazy so I don’t do lots of research before I go somewhere new. I like to not know much. That way you’re not expecting to see something and trying to capture it, but missing something that’s going on behind you.

EW: Last time you were here you were shooting for your new book, The Sartorialist X. Did you end up using any of the images you took?

SS: Yes, one of a beautiful young lady who wants to be a designer. She was a local woman dressed in black. She had this amazing persona – like a Middle Eastern Frida Khalo. I saw her but I couldn’t shoot her straight away, so we set it up for the next day and had a conversation with her and her husband as initially she wasn’t sure if he’d be happy for her to be photographed.

Scott Schuman

Scott snaps Reem Al Kanhal in Dubai

Scott Schuman

EW: That must have been quite a contrast to what you’re used to at Fashion Week – do you not have people throwing themselves in front of your camera?

SS: No I really don’t! (Laughs). I’m quite oblivious to it but hardly anyone ever actually approaches me and asks to have their picture taken. I think it’s a benefit of people saying that I look a bit mean. It’s not that at all… it’s that I can’t see that well so a lot of the time I’m just squinting! People occasionally peacock in front of me but what they don’t realise is that that is literally the opposite of what they should do. It makes me feel really self-conscious! I’m actually quite shy.

Related Story: Best Street Style Looks In Dubai


EW: You’ve been shooting street style for a decade now – you must have so many opinions on how it’s changed. When you started, did you have any idea how much of a social phenomenon you were going to spawn?

SS: I really didn’t think it through. There was no important blogs at the time, just chat rooms etc, but no visual element. I thought, how can you discuss fashion without the visual? It wasn’t supposed to turn into a job but I first started thinking about it as such when I began to get these really beautiful emails coming through. People started telling me how much the pictures meant to them. I worked in sales and marketing for years before I did this and I know, as much as you try, you can’t make someone like something. So it meant a lot that these people were taking time to tell me how much it meant. But of course I never knew what was going to happen afterwards. I think it’s great that it’s inspired lots of people to pick up a camera and try it themselves. But the thing with whatever becomes popular is that eventually it implodes on itself and it begins to muddy the waters.

Scott Schuman in Dubai

EW: So how do you make sure you stay ahead of the curve in that sense?

SS: I’ve learned to evolve and not complain. I use Instagram now so much – and it’s the biggest form of communication there is right now. But it means my audience has changed which allows me to be a bit more diverse in what I post. From travel to buildings to interiors… whatever inspires me. It also means I can keep my street style shots good as I can be more picky with them. I’m surprised more people haven’t evolved past (just shooting people) and created a voice.

Related Story: Things To Know About Fashion Forward Season Six


EW: How do you feel your role informs what designers do aesthetically?

SS: I’ve worked with designers a lot and my photographs end up on the inspiration walls of some of them. But they won’t copy the looks – it’s far more about the essence. They see a cool girl and they think, ‘yeah, I’d love to dress that girl… but I’d put her in something more like this…’. They look at it in a very different way than I do. I like to think of what I do as creating a good portrait. They turn it into a dream.

Scott Schuman in Dubai

“And this one’s Valencia…” Fashion Features Editor Olivia educates Scott in the way of Instagram filters.

EW: You’re at every fashion week so you must see the same women, and men, over and over. Do you have a favourite one to shoot?

SS: I’m more about the next one. I love these people and they’re my friends, but I like discovering a new amazing girl. Like Tommy (Ton, of Jak & Jil) and some of the other guys, I hugely respect them and their work, but I don’t know how they can keep shooting the same subject over and over. The first time I meet someone I’m really interested by them so I shoot and shoot… but then I might not shoot them again for a while. Sometimes you can see them thinking ‘but what’s wrong with my outfit?’ but sometimes it’s just my mood or the light’s not right… but my friends understand and respect that. I’ll shoot when I’m ready. Guys don’t tend to mind as much!

I just communicate what I feel – it’s not so much about what they’re wearing, it’s more about a beautiful shot. Sometimes you can’t see the clothes that much, or it’s just the back of an outfit – but I’ve learned to trust myself. My style isn’t like Bill Cunningham’s, for example – his is more like a report. For me it’s not so literal.

Related Story: Chasing Tommy Ton, The Documentary

EW: You’ve got a background in design and we’ve heard you’re branching into menswear – is that true?

SS: Well I’ve already done a footwear line but yes, I’m looking into doing a denim capsule collection – I’m just negotiating the details at the moment. This upcoming trip to Milan I’m doing is about that – luckily the Italians seem to like me and I’ve found someone who will do a great job of the production.

EW: Your latest book is shot further afield than just the fashion capitals – India, Peru, Dubai etc – do you have a favourite place to shoot?

SS: I love Milan. In comparison to New York or London is so small with such a concentrated amount of people making their livelihood from design in some capacity – whether it’s interiors or fashion. So what I’ve learned is where I used to shoot a guy in New York doing a cool Italian thing, now I know where to go in Italy to get the real deal. The New York guy might be doing it at a 6, but the one in Italian will be a 10. I love travelling – which is why I did so much of it for my new book. I’m still very interested in fashion week because I love fashion and all my friends are there, but now it’s just a part of it.


Scott Schuman in Dubai

Scott Schuman and Fashion Features Editor Olivia Phillips



Profile images: Farooq Salik