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An Interview with Scott Shapiro

Updated: Apr 16, 2019

Scott Shapiro is a visionary. The former fashion market editor of V Magazine founded PHOSPHENES, a biannual fashion publication, back in college (but began printing it in 2016) as a means of achieving the creative fulfillment he wasn't getting from academics. Now PHOSPHENES serves to foster the originality (especially in regards to visuals) he hopes to see more of in the fashion world. Guided by Scott's unique sensibilities, PHOSPHENES adds a fresh voice to fashion journalism, featuring up and coming designers/creatives as opposed to established ones, and carefully crafting aesthetics that are not derivative of the now-exhausted trends in fashion photography that flood our Instagram feeds, while still abiding by the framework one would expect from a fashion magazine.

Still freelancing as a stylist for V Magazine, INDIE, and more, Scott's success is unsurprising-- inevitable given he is immensely skilled in curation, collecting seemingly disparate things and uniting them in unexpected ways so that they function synergistically. His inventive instincts and taste are not just welcomed, but needed in an increasingly homogeneous landscape.

What work are you most proud of?

I think in general I'm just very proud of the work I've done up to this point, especially everything I've done with PHOSPHENES. Our most recent issue is probably my proudest project to date as it really shows a huge level of growth from our first few issues. I'm also really proud to have been able to do this while working full time at other magazines or doing other freelance styling work at the same time.

What inspired you to start PHOSPHENES?

I originally started PHOSPHENES as a fashion blog in college because I was quite bored with my studies at the time and didn't have an outlet for fashion or any of my other passions. As it grew over the years, I decided to start printing our work in 2016, essentially just as a fun little experiment. But as it continued to grow and the quality of our work became a bit more elevated, I felt this second wind of inspiration to give it a lot more of my energy and see how far we could really take it.

What would you change about the fashion world?

There are quite a few things. In terms of the way we create imagery, and this is something I hope to try to convey through PHOSPHENES, I would love for fashion media to come from a place of a bit more originality, not doing things so much for social media impressions. I think everything is a bit too "likes"-focused, and everyone is trying so hard while still belaboring the same overexposed ideas and visuals.

I think the fashion industry needs to be more inclusive in some ways, meaning representing a more diverse range of ethnicities and body types and gender identities etc, but done in a way that is natural and, again, not just for social media. I think the industry needs to gain a sense of exclusivity on a separate note, though; it's great that there's such an interest in fashion right now, but I feel like it's become almost too accessible to the entirety of the world, almost cheapening its impact to an extent. In general, I think the impact of social media on fashion has complicated things quite a bit.

I also think unpaid or underpaid work needs to come to a stop, and the fashion industry is one of the worst perpetrators of this. As my main source of income comes from freelance styling work, I'm consistently in a bind financially because literally no one pays on time. I know it is what it is, but it's still extremely frustrating to be chasing certain companies for invoices I submitted four months prior. I technically make so much more money from freelancing than I did working at a magazine full-time, but it's extremely irritating to never receive that in a timely manner.

Where do you get inspiration from?

I can get inspiration from almost anywhere or anything depending on my mood or what I'm currently working on. My go-to is always late 90s/early-2000s fashion editorials from magazines like i-D or The Face or Vogue Italia. I also get inspiration from films, art, history and cultures, and the people and places around me in New York.

Who are your favorite designers?

Glenn Martens and his work at Y/Project has become a recent favorite. I also love what Demna Gvasalia has been doing at Balenciaga, and Luke and Lucie Meier have been amazing at Jil Sander. Some of my all-time favorites would be Jil Sander herself, Dries Van Noten, Rick Owens, Alber Elbaz, Yohji Yamamoto, and of course Phoebe Philo, who I'm praying will be making a comeback soon.

How has your work changed over the years?

I think after years of actually working in the industry and trying different things and learning a lot, my taste has become a lot more refined and my work has reflected that. But at the same time I'm a little more open to taking risks than I might have been before. I think my work ethic has been refined a lot too, and I think I've found some really great systems that work for me when it comes to doing my job, which have taken years to perfect (and I'm still perfecting them).

When did you realize you wanted to go into fashion?

I decided to go into fashion when I was in middle school after really feeding into the different magazines and fashion stories I was consuming. Once I got to college I decided to pursue a career in magazines, and once I was doing these different internships and jobs the world of styling opened itself up to me, and I started getting into that some more too. 

Images used in collage via @scottshapiro_


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