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Pop Couture - New York Times Magazine


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Monday, December 22, 2008

Pop Couture - New York Times Magazine

Published: December 19, 2008

Sometimes the Web is most satisfying when it confirms a cliché from the world offline.

I’m thinking of the captivating street-style photoblogs, which display snapshots of chic pedestrians in cities around the world. Such blogs exist for Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Moscow, Sydney, Seoul, Berlin, Dublin, London — you name it. Survey them one morning over coffee, and you’ll feel like a boulevardier of the whole world, breezing past one stunning creature after another, free to cruelly assess or dumbly gaze — at supreme leisure and invulnerable to reciprocal scrutiny.

What can be learned from a global anthology of fantastic-­looking people? First off, you might find that looking at people on city streets is almost a perfect allegory of Web-browsing. Tellingly, the major Chinese search engine, Baidu, takes its name from an ancient poem about the search for (what the portal’s FAQ calls) “a retreating beauty amid chaotic glamour.” Anyone encountering the bedlam of the Web seeks a resting place, even — at times — a literal or figurative embrace. The suspense of that exploration is mirrored in the story you find on the street-style blogs: the search for a quiet connection with beauty in a metropolis of strangers.

But what specifically do the photoblogs teach about fashion? The novelty of Aladdin pants, the sweetness of dove gray, bits and pieces of style — gestalts, vibes — the same vague revelations you might discover while walking in the Harajuku neighborhood in Tokyo or the French Quarter in New Orleans. Dozens of street-style blogs for Muslim women show inventive ways to wear a hijab and eye makeup. Some stylish people on the blogs look chipper and resourceful (Tokyo); some look pampered (Cape Town). Others appear proud (Stockholm), playful (Austin), radiant (Copenhagen), easygoing (Nairobi), celebratory (Buenos Aires), ferocious (London). The street-style blogs palpably lift the mood: human beings in their natural habitats and chosen adornments seem suddenly ingenious, unpredictable and above all beautiful.

That feeling mounts at the best sites — Face Hunter, Style-Arena, Stockholm Street Style — and peaks with a glance at The Sartorialist, the bellwether American site that turned this kind of cruising-photo­blogging into an art form. Fathered by Scott Schuman, a onetime employee of the men’s clothing enterprise Chess King who (though he detoured through a career in high fashion) never lost his eye for the sharp-dressed Everyman, The Sartorialist features not just handsome people but also handsome photographs. The site’s generous, near-gilded portraits are especially pleasing when contrasted with stock rage-filled fashion spreads in glossy magazines. Schuman’s images have no edge; they’re all creamy center.

On an average day at The Sartorialist you might catch two students, she with a pink bow at her neck and he in a shrunken flannel shirt, loitering not far from a humorous-looking bearded man in a military-band jacket, who himself preens not far from a row of sophisticated winter women in dark stockings, heels, furs and vividly colored August-weight dresses.

Indeed, the street-style blogs of the world are so trippingly delightful and spontaneous that, while you forget your cares in your money­less world tour, you may also forget all societal gravity and natural laws and snob hierarchies — until. Hold up. At Garance Doré, a French blog named after its proprietress, you hit a hard truth, the immovable cliché of style: Paris. The Web came, the European Union, Tokyo style, war, Sarkozy, the crash of global markets. And still everyone dresses better in Paris.

At least, I mean, they look sublime at the house of Garance Doré. Raised by a high-stepping mother who wore Mugler and Alaïa, Doré is a fashion illustrator who in 2006 became “a little frustrated with the commissions I had, and in particular by the lack of contact with the readers” (as her freshly translated bio puts it). She closed the audience gap with a blog — as so many do; at first, it showed sketches and captions and now features photos of people she encounters. You know, just people, regular people, like an ethereal redheaded It Girl outside a Karl Lagerfeld show, or the sultry French model Valentine Fillol Cordier at the Palais Royal.

A friend of mine won’t look at Garance Doré because he says it fills him with longing he can’t bear. I feel nearly the same way, though I don’t stay away; I’m pleasurably overwhelmed. Somehow Garance Doré gives viewers the sense that they are in the urban splendor too, or could be, or should be — strolling or sauntering, rather than linking and clicking. And at this moment in cultural history, when the allure of Europe and Paris and the sumptuous, leisurely life is assumed to have faded, we’re not on guard against it. Garance Doré should come with a caution.

With their scarves and coats in muted colors, steady gazes and rosebud mouths, the figures who pause at Garance Doré seem somehow sainted. Unlike Schuman, Doré publishes photos of faces alone (often set above full-body shots), so her focus is less on silhouette and proportion and more on expression and complexion. While Schuman’s camera is curious, Doré’s is smitten. Her figures glow under her attention. They’re nearly aflame.

As a rule, the street-style blogs don’t take many ads. They’re not advertorial, either. I haven’t seen any that systematically caption their photos with information about brands, labels, prices. And if you think you might try to replicate one of the looks, you’re thrown back on your wits and your own wardrobe: the sites don’t suggest places to shop. A proposed “shopping guide” that was forever “premiering soon” on The Sartorialist seems to be stalled.

On the other hand, in this time of a downturn in traditional media that’s said to be both “cyclical and secular” — meaning that there’s a recession on and that the businesses are fundamentally changing and moving online — the street-style blogs suggest a new way of displaying fashion and, down the road, monetizing fashion reporting. Vogue’s Style File blog at, which features celebrities and breaking fashion news, rarely draws a single comment. By contrast, a Garance Doré post of an unnamed woman in houndstooth and stripes drew 78 comments, in French and English. Sartorialist posts regularly draw more than a hundred. People return to these sites, and stay a long time. In the fashion frame of mind, some viewers would no doubt click on ads for e-tailers that might sell them clothes, jewelry, accessories and cosmetics.

It’s also worth noting that if it’s the styles of New York and Paris that play the best online, nothing in the taste of the times should be all that confounding to people who know the rules of traditional fashion. Although of course even the great Garance Doré — who seems to me to be the guardian of all style — can get confused. Recently, Doré reported that she came across a stunning young woman with “une allure incroyable” in black eyeliner and a vintage blue puffer coat. Doré speculated that she might be from an exotic land, perhaps where grog is drunk. (At times, the French fashion world seems to be intoxicated by Scandinavian beauty and style.)

Though Doré addressed her in English, the alluring woman was entirely French, called Marianne (“Comme la République Française,” the woman added helpfully). It turned out that she was Doré’s neighbor in Paris. A stylish Parisienne? Quelle surprise.

from Scott
I'm so happy to see Garance Dore getting the attention her work deserves. She is one of the few blogs I look at every day for inspiration.

Comments on "Pop Couture - New York Times Magazine"


Blogger SoniaBlade said ... (12:46 AM) : 

This is a really great article, thank you for posting.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:53 AM) : 

Congrats, Sart, for the bigger pictures. This IS a step forward. I think your photos are much more interesting than Garance's, but it was difficult to see them at first glance. Now it is much better.


Blogger TMFA said ... (5:08 AM) : 

Garance Dore's pictures are truly fabulous.


Blogger padraic timothy sullivan said ... (6:10 AM) : 

Garance Doré! Quel rêve!

If Paris ever seems far, Garance is only a click away.


Blogger J.A.F. said ... (6:19 AM) : 

Congrats Scott!, saw this yesterday. I'm now a fan of Garance Dore as well. Just what I needed, more interenet addictions.


Blogger designerman said ... (6:50 AM) : 

love garance dore's blog. 100% french charm!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:09 AM) : 

Wow! What can I say except: Quel bel hommage!
as you said, she deverves it because she's so talented. Great portraits, writing style (she makes me laugh) and drawings.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:35 AM) : 

Thank you for printing this interesting article and for introducing to me to Garance Dore - wow! what i've been missing! The combination of your two blogs - I'm in heaven!

ps - the new size photos - they don' fit on my laptop screen, is this a laptop thing or are others experiencing similar problems?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:04 AM) : 

Congrats, Scott.

As for GD, the girl in the 12/22 shots is absolutely beautiful. I'm in love.


Blogger Shaynuh said ... (9:39 AM) : 

It's a nice blog from first glance. I like how she takes close up shots and then full body shots of the people she photographs.


Blogger TEXTSTYLES said ... (9:50 AM) : 

and Virginia Heffernan writes beautifully. truly inspired.



Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:55 AM) : 

I love both your blogs - they are a true inspiration! Thanks and happy xmas!


Blogger anna said ... (10:19 AM) : 

This is an elegantly written essay and Sartorialist deeply deserves the press and praise. However, the Times author is either a bit naive or has choosen to overlook the rampant and conspicuous branding and product placement on many street fashion blogs for vintage and indie sellers, couture labels, mass market chains like H&M and F21and the ever-ubiquitous American Apparel.


Blogger Charlotte said ... (10:23 AM) : 

"monetizing fashion reporting", "caption their photos with information about brands, labels, prices"?

I sincerely hope not. A world of copycats is the antithesis of the Sartorialist.


Blogger Cristina said ... (11:07 AM) : 

j'adore Garance. And the Sartorialist of course.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:20 AM) : 

I agree! I found Garance Dore a couple of weeks back, and have since bookmarked it, to add onto my must reads, wherein The Sartorialist ranks high up on!


Blogger f2images said ... (11:23 AM) : 

Just bookmarked Garance Dore's blog. Thanks for the lead. One thing I especially love about this blog, is that you feature a very well-rounded palette of looks, on varied figures. It speaks more to the everyday person.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:03 PM) : 

Garance takes beautiful pictures. The colours are always very vibrant, and everyone looks gorgeous on her portraits. Yet, it's really too bad that she only focuses on young people in their twenties. It's too bad that most fashion blogs do that too (something that article forgets to point out). What people like about your blog, Scott, is the eclectism: People of all ages and styles.


Blogger Unknown said ... (2:09 PM) : 

Thanks for posting, Scott.
I like the new size too.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:28 PM) : 

I love Garance Dore, but her blog is very different from yours. More passionate about clothes and almost exclusively pictures of young, beautiful women.
Yours is more passionate about style, which is not the same thing, and you photograph a huge range of people, men and women, young and old.
Chapeau to both of you!
Does anybody know what is the street style blog out of Nairobi?


Blogger J. M. said ... (6:50 PM) : 

So enjoyed the article so rich in poetry and inspiration, so beautifully written. Your blog is more elegantly designed than Garance Dore and you immediately feel welcomed and because your posts are so varied even including old people who can still be beautiful to behold one looks forward to looking at your posts.I would love to see some grey haired ladies, I love grey hair it's so elegant both on men and women.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:55 PM) : 

Great article. Thanks for posting. I'm a big fan of Garance Dore as well.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:17 PM) : 

Does anyone know the websites for the fashion blogs in Buenos Aires, Austin, or Cape Town? I cannot seem to find them.
Or any other good fashion blogs, for that matter.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:13 PM) : 

I actually read that article in Times Magazine, and it actually immediately drew me onto this site. I love both sites, and have both bookmarked.
Garance Dore's photographs are very beautiful (let's face it, it's Paris!), but I enjoy the range of people and styles in your photographs better.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:08 PM) : 

yes, also happy that garance dore was featured... she's great!


Blogger Unknown said ... (9:57 PM) : 

Well deserved praise! You always inspire me.


Blogger Anthony said ... (1:15 AM) : 

i recently added garance dore' to the list of sites i check on a daily basis as well!

Hers as well as yours are unparalleled!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:27 AM) : 

Hers, and yours are my favourite blogs!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:24 PM) : 

Congratulations to you both! Both of your sites are professional in committing to a love of fashion, the people, and the street.


Blogger Barbara said ... (3:49 PM) : 

Yes, Garance Dore has been a favourite of mine for about 6 months now - her photographs are wonderful. I spend quite a lot of time in Paris and these girls are truly walking and breathing there! But your blog is unique. I love your all-encompassing eye. I would also like to know what the Cape Town blog might be - I live here and would love to see some of our own homegrown stylistas on display.......


Blogger said ... (7:54 AM) : 

Actually, I found that article really hard to read! But thanks for the heads up re Garance Dore. Will check it out now...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:06 PM) : 

I kept coming back to Garance's site again and again for the French language practice as much as for the photographs. (Now that she posts in English too, that point is moot.)And though I do love her site, and the Sartorialist, they are really very different. Garance swoons over her subjects. You really feel as if she falls in love with every single one. Sart presents his for us to either swoon over or not. I find the Sart site to be almost an intellectual experience; Garance is pure candy.

I love this article by the way.


Blogger Unknown said ... (3:24 PM) : 

Chess King. Wow, that brought back some long-repressed part-time job memories!

As for the new photo format, they look great on my laptop with Firefox and 1400 x1050 resolution.


Blogger Sofia & Flo said ... (9:43 PM) : 

Beautiful tribute to Garance! I must try to find that shot of the two of you outside the Tuileries and post it, you both looked very happy!
About the French... Well I agree! Of course since I am French!! :)


Blogger Anthea said ... (10:21 PM) : 

Bravo! It will be interesting to see what happens with online's exciting. Let's hope things brighten up in the near future :)


Blogger nyc/caribbean ragazza said ... (2:29 PM) : 

Congrats on the article.

I will check out Garance's blog.


Blogger Ondo Lady said ... (3:12 PM) : 

Interesting article and great to see street style blogs getting their dues. Congrats on the article, although you must be used to the adulation by now. :)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:58 PM) : 

i just looked her up and like her blog. thanks for pointing me her way. if you like her drawings then you would like tina berning's. shes a german artist whose work has been commissioned for fashion magazines and the nyt and wjc before. im not sure if im allowed to say that in a comment or not, feel free to not post this if so.


Blogger Jessica said ... (9:25 PM) : 

Well-deserved praise for Garance and especially you, Sart. Congrats!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:34 PM) : 

lovely for her, and for YOU! I check you every day for inspiration. Also, please don't run ads or shopping guides. I love how untrammeled this space is.


Blogger Anne said ... (8:56 AM) : 

I still think Sartorialist is the best, though!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:06 PM) : 

Thanks for posting this! I had never heard of Garance Dore before, but I've been visiting her page regularly since reading this.


Anonymous rüya tabirleri said ... (11:47 AM) : 

lovely for her, and for YOU! I check you every day for inspiration. Also, please don't run ads or shopping guides. I love how untrammeled this space is.


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