One of Scott Schuman’s portraits shows a man in the Indian city of Kolkata with glitter on his face, shining like stardust. But the photographer initially missed this detail.
Schuman had run into the stranger — “a young man in a hoodie who had a certain allure,” as he’s described in the photographer’s new street style book — during an early-morning visit to a flower market on the outskirts of the city. The man had agreed to pose, but it was only after he left that Schuman zoomed into the image to see the shimmer on his face.
“I had missed the drama of the shot,” Schuman writes. “I needed to find him again, but he had already disappeared into the labyrinth of flowers, plants and porters.”
A woman with yellow hair in New Delhi. Scroll through the gallery to see more of Scott Schuman’s street photography. Credit: Scott Schuman
In India, you don’t need to go far to find drama. Step out on the streets of any city, and the spectacle of the everyday will ambush, if not overwhelm, you. Sometimes all you need is to turn around — an idea that comes alive in Schuman’s book.
Best known as a fashion photographer and, since 2005, curator of the popular blog The Sartorialist, Schuman came to prominence through his candid street shots of stylish New Yorkers. His fourth spin-off book, “The Sartorialist: India” comprises a series of portraits from the subcontinent, most of which resulted from happy accidents.
Schuman seldom follows the conventions of the fashion photography genre. “I have the eyes of a costume designer,” he said on the phone from his home in New York. “I want to show what clothes can tell us about the person wearing them.”
A woman fiddles with her earring in Alsisar, Rajasthan. Credit: Scott Schuman
Schuman’s work finds intrigue in the throwaway details and unspoken stories captured within its frames. His book is interspersed with blank pages, and images bereft of human life — instead of people, we see water tanks, jerry cans and gloves on metal rods looking like spectral hands.
The photographer has been visiting India since 2008 to cover fashion weeks. But some of his most memorable shots came not from runway shows, but while he was driving around in a car, or walking aimlessly in the streets.
“In India, people on the street are more open to being photographed than in Western cities. (Most people seemed) happy about being seen and recognized,” observed Schuman, adding that Italy may be the only other country where he feels people are so at ease in front of camera.
Indeed, there is a disarming innocence about many of the characters Schuman encountered. From jockeys comparing their palm sizes in Chennai and bare-bodied wrestlers grappling in New Delhi, to surfers in Pondicherry and the men casually hanging out in Mumbai, the photographer’s eye swoops across wide vistas and different walks of life.
At its best, Schuman’s images evoke the great photographers of urban life: the haunting work of Helen Levitt, for instance, who photographed New York in the 1960s, or Brassaï’s chronicles of Paris between the wars. Schuman’s depiction of India, however, is not confined to its cities. Just as it traverses rural, suburban and metropolitan realities, it also straddles starkly contrasting social classes and circumstances.
Jockeys in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, comparing the size of their palms. Credit: Scott Schuman
Schuman feels there’s a misplaced notion in the West that “you cannot have a sense of style if you don’t have money.” The diversity of sartorial choices he witnessed on Indian streets, and the resilience with which people made the most of limited resources, defied this, he said. Be it in big cities or in small villages, the Indians he encountered made “informed personal decisions” about the clothes they wore. “There seemed to be a lot of pride in dressing up,” he added.
Like many post-colonial nations, India has a unique hybrid street style, cobbled together as much by necessity as by intent. It isn’t unusual to pair a “lungi,” a rectangular piece of cloth tied around the waist by men, with a dapper jacket. Nor is a “gamcha,” a small towel used as an accessory, an uncommon sight.
This can result — usually unwittingly — in ironic scenes. Take, for example, Schuman’s photograph of a beefy youth wearing a T-shirt with “Who’s a pretty girl then?” emblazoned across his chest.
A man in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Credit: Scott Schuman
In the best traditions of street photography, Schuman mines forces otherwise hidden from our untrained eyes. His India isn’t cloyed with exotic charm, nor it is blighted by poverty to the exclusion of all else.
Rather, he conveys the joie de vivre at the heart of India’s streets, even amid obvious signs of want and misery — the innate sense of style with which people create their individual statements from often meager means.
“My book isn’t an encyclopedia,” Schuman said. “But I want it to make readers curious about India.”
Brit Awards 2020: Best red carpet fashion
But female artists grabbed the spotlight nonetheless. They did so on the red carpet, where they outdid their male peers both in style and their playful approach, and on stage, offering some the night’s best performances, from R’n’B star Mabel, who opened the night, to Billie Eilish, Celeste and Lizzo.
The latter owned the event on all fronts. She looked delicious (literally) on the red carpet, wearing an asymmetrical floor-length Hershey’s wrapper dress by Jeremy Scott for Moschino. The gown featured the chocolate brand’s logo, a barcode, price tag and even nutritional details.
Lizzo attends The Brit Awards 2020. Credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images
The singer slayed on stage too, performing a high-energy medley of hits, complete with dance breaks in a woven tan leather bodysuit with matching sandals and a high ponytail. She might have not won Best International Female Solo Artist — the award went to Eilish — but she sure demonstrated she knows how to do fun, fierce and fabulous all at once.
Billie Eilish attends The Brit Awards on February 18, 2020 in London, England. Credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images
Eilish, too, went for tans, beiges and cream with her outfit, though in her signature oversized style. The artist wore head-to-toe Burberry, and we mean it: She donned trainers and socks, a tracksuit, trench coat and a transparent bonnet. (Her nails — which are quickly becoming as representative of her aesthetic as her clothes — also got the Burberry treatment, featuring the brand’s immediately recognizable tartan motif).
Celeste arriving at The Brit Awards 2020 held at the O2 Arena in London. Credit: Ian West/PA Images/Getty Images
There were also classic red carpet ensembles, from model Adwoa Aboah in a slinky white satin dress and feathered black bag to Charli XCX in Fendi, radio presenter Maya Jama in a va-va-voom black ballgown and Mabel in custom Valentino.
Men alternated between dapper — rapper Dave in a straight-shooter patterned suit, Stormzy and Dermot Kennedy in Dior — and the scruffy hipster: Tom Walker, Lewis Capaldi and Bastille.
Harry Styles attends The Brit Awards 2020 at The O2 Arena on February 18, 2020. Credit: Dave J. Hogan/Getty Images
But the one star that made a standout style statement? Harry Styles. Again getting red carpet fashion down to a T, the artist, who attended both as a performer and nominee, showcased three different outfits during the evening, each one a mix of feminine and masculine pieces — proof he’s increasingly embracing genderless fashion.
Styles gave us a 1970s-esque brown suit by Gucci on the red carpet, with signature pearls, a broderie anglaise collar and a black ribbon on his left lapel, a sign of mourning for the late TV presenter Caroline Flack. On stage, he sported a custom Gucci lace jumpsuit, which he wore barefoot in a rather moving performance of “Falling.” He then wrapped up the evening with a resplendent yellow suit by Marc Jacobs, with a bowed lilac neckline.
Fair Isle: The remote island where jumpers are always in fashion
Fifty years ago, the allure of Fair Isle knitwear inspired freelance photographer Chris Morphet to travel to the UK’s most remote community. His pictures documented the lives of Shetland islanders and the distinctive designs which are still influencing fashion today.
Chris felt drawn to Fair Isle after seeing the famous knitwear on the streets of London.
So in 1970, the 26-year-old photographer headed north to the remote island, which is located 80 miles off the Scottish mainland, half way between Orkney and Shetland.
“I found it amazing that people lived on this island,” he said.
“I just went round a knocked on people’s doors and asked if they had any Fair Isle sweaters.
“It was quite a naive thing to do, but I was just entranced by the place. It was just something that caught my imagination.”
Chris, now 76, remembers everyone on the island being very welcoming.
“People just seemed happy to pose.
“I loved it all. It was a really wholesome experience, and I met amazing people.”
The people he photographed on Fair Isle included Stewart and Triona Thomson.
Triona, now aged 75, said the picture had been taken while the couple were putting up a byre at their home.
“I have no memory of it at all,” she admitted.
“We must have put on our posh jumpers. The one in the photo – knitted by my mother-in law – is the only one I’ve ever possessed.”
Chris had two sweaters made for himself – one of which he still owns and wears today.
He says the photographs he took in Shetland provided a historical record of the “very special” designs created by the people on Fair Isle.
The patterned knitwear developed in the early 19th Century in fishermen’s caps and jumpers, then gained wider popularity in the 1920s.
Fair Isle has since been adopted as a general term for multicoloured knitwear, but there are still small numbers of garments produced on the island from patterns which have been handed down through generations.
Each design contains an average of four colours, with only two colours used in each row.
Mati Ventrillon, a French-Venezuelan designer, is among those who are trying to keep the tradition alive on Fair Isle.
She moved to the island from London in 2007, when local knitters were looking for new recruits.
“I felt attracted to the designs, and I wanted to try my own designs and colours,” she explained.
She eventually launched her own company, selling online to customers in the UK and in overseas markets such as the US and Canada.
She also made headlines in 2015 when she received an apology from Chanel after her work was not credited for inspiring designs in one of its collections.
Mati said she was trying to work out how to grow the business while also preserving the traditions and heritage of the island.
“It starts to become a legacy. We are bringing people to the island and passing on the skills,” she said.
“It has been here for so many years, and you see it everywhere, it’s so beautiful. The design possibilities are endless.
“And it still has a long story ahead.”
All images are copyrighted.
The Best Street Style From London Fashion Week
As it always must, Fashion Month has departed New York in favor of Europe. First up: London. And with brands like Simone Rocha, JW Anderson, and Burberry showing, it’s no surprise the fashion flock has come out in full force.
Last week, New Yorkers explained how they decide what to wear to the shows. Now we get to feast our eyes on all the stylish Londoners, with their color blocking and print-mashing galore. Between big romantic dresses and sharp tailoring, tie-dye, leopard, polka dots, plaid, gingham, stripes, checkers, and winter florals, you’ll never think of prints as seasonally specific again.
Our street-style photographer, Nicky Zeng, is documenting the European fashions all month. Keep scrolling to see the best looks from London Fashion Week, below.
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