Seeing the Real Difference Between Art and Design

The Sartorialist blog has been a big hit, with each post getting dozens of comments. Why? On the surface it’s the usual blogger story: an individual with insight on a particular topic publishes quickly and honestly sans organizational overhead.

To me, the Sartorialist does something else important. He delineates the difference between art and design. Many publications aimed at the fashion consumer, whether it be men’s magazines or even the New York Times, present clothes as art. I imagine the editors are fashionistas, and publish for (the taste and budgets of) other fashionistas. The Sartorialist on the other hand covers what people actually wear and so has something of agile in it, quickly revealing what people are and do. It’s field research with a point of view.


  1. Thanks for flagging that blog; the pictures are fascinating. The blogger has a great eye for noticing things on the street, and obviously a good amount of charm in making the request for the picture.

    But this smells more of trendspotting than field research. Maybe you could see trendspotters as observant and knowledgeable about the cutting edge, and extroverted enough to get in and find it and capture it.

    There is definitely an anthro-zeitgeisty feel to the blog as you scroll down it. But so what? What does it mean? What do I do with this information? It’s data – edited data, with a POV, granted, but still data. Maybe I’m niggling semantics, but I think it needs some of the “so what” to be any sort of field research…

  2. c’mon steve, let me be a little picky:

    victor says: “It’s field research with a point of view.” – and that exactly does not make it field research – it makes it some kind of little essay.

    victor said it once here
    and i’ll say it again: “The author’s eye and insightful commentary create little moments of education and beauty.”
    (this sentence in fact had the power to win me for the sartorialist of whom i previously did not really know what to think… lukewarm trend-spotter without an edge, weirdo wannabe with a love for the establishment??)

    it is the combination of “POV” and “field research” that brings him incredibly close to one of germany’s great photographers and to one of the most important photographers in the world of fashion: august sander

    in sander’s case the aspect of “field research” if you want to say so – the aspect of capturing social reality of course is a bit stronger than in the work of scott schuman – and maybe also therefore the garments speak stronger than with the sartorialist.

    compared to august the great a lukewarm feeling still remains within the work of our blogger. – still, a POV unseen in fashion photography today – also because of his eye for the unspectacular.

    all in all a great body of work that will remain in its very own right.

  3. In some sense, it’s just portraiture.

    But also, if we asked the question, “What are fashion-conscious but normal people wearing in the cities these days?” I’m not sure where else to go for an answer. In that sense it’s field research.

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