Interview With Claire Sulmers
Claire Siobhan Sulmers, who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Real Simple, Newsweek, New York, and Essence magazines and on the websites of Paris and Italian Vogue.
In August 2006, Claire founded the blog The Fashion Bomb, which gets 1.6 million monthly visitors. The Fashion Bomb has been referenced in New York Magazine, featured in Glamour, and quoted in Time. Claire is a regular contributor to Essence.com and Vogue.it.
Q: What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is indicative of our culture, our mood, our personality; it’s a reflection of societal mores and predilections. Fashion is utilitarian in that we all need threads to cover our bodies; but to creatively attack the routine of getting dressed everyday, take risks, and think outside of the box is what fashion means to me.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to become a fashion editor / start FASHION BOMB DAILY?
My two greatest passions in life are shopping and writing. I’ve loved clothes since junior high, and have always taken pains to have a polished appearance.
After working several years in the magazine industry, I realized I could marry my love for prose with my passion for fashion.
I started Fashion Bomb Daily as a hobby; I credit my genuine enthusiasm for the topic for its blossoming into a business.
Q: What was the first article of clothing you ever admired?
For some reason my first memories have to do with pajamas: a cotton rainbow-colored shirt and pants set I tried to wear to school (my mother told me no). Also, a multicolored floral silk robe my mother wore when I was younger.
Q: How does online content differ from print?
Online is immediate.
Sites aren’t even waiting until the next day to post; they are live streaming, live blogging, and live tweeting.
Which means there’s more room for error. But the beauty of digital is that you can easily go back and correct your mistakes. Print is more thought out, methodical, and permanent.
Q: Describe the general process you go through to pick what is in and create content.
Because we focus so much on celebrities, a lot of our job just comes down to checking the wire to see who was out and what they were wearing.
If it’s a slow news day, I rely heavily on reader mail. I like to give the people who visit my site what they want.
So if they want anything from a rundown of Spring trends to a fashion discussion, I oblige. I also have several features that we publish every day no matter what, including Bombshell of the Day and Fashion News.
Q: Who are some of your favorite designers now?
From America, I like Alexander Wang, Rag & Bone, Helmut Lang, Mara Hoffman, and Humberto Leon and Carol Lim for Kenzo. From Paris, Olivier Rousteing of Balmain and Isabel Marant.
My favorite designers right now are based in Britain: I’m living for Peter Pilotto’s digital prints, Mary Katrantzou’s color infused pieces, and lesser known names like Emma Cook and Katie Eary.
I also have a soft spot for a smattering of Italian brands like Roberto Cavalli and Etro.
Half of the brands I love exude urban / edgy cool. The other half are just bright, bold, and fun
Q: What is your favorite Fashion Week memory?
Fashion Week access hasn’t always been easy for the site, though I take it in stride.
As a site that focuses on a multicultural audience, I knew I couldn’t miss Kanye West’s second fashion show in Paris.
I honestly had no way to get in, and expressed a bit of anxiety about entry to a more experienced fashion editor, and she listened quietly. On the day of the show, I saw her randomly, and she gave me her ticket, telling me she informed the publicist I’d be attending in her stead and saying, “You’ll enjoy it more than me.”
Kanye West’s show in Paris only had a front row, for a maximum of, say, 50 people, which included top editors, and Kanye’s friends like Diddy, Cassie, Alicia Keys, and Swizz Beatz.
Long story short, I was able to attend the show, sit on the exclusive front row, and live tweet/blog it.
I spent the first minutes of the after party uploading my grainy Ipad images to my site, so I’d be the ‘first’ to write a review.
And the party afterwards was lots of fun, with performances by Wacka Flocka Flame and Azealia Banks.
It was a great memory not just because I attended, but mainly because in the notoriously difficult and cutthroat fashion industry, someone I admired thought to look out for me. It doesn’t happen often, so when it does, it’s truly touching.
Q: What do you believe makes a quality article of clothing / a great look?
Construction and versatility. I have this Kenzo jumpsuit that transforms from a jumpsuit to a playsuit by zipping off the legs. I’m obsessed with it.
I think a great look has an unexpected element. Instead of opting for a black pump, you picked pink polka dots. Instead of a nude lip, you went with red.
Q: Do you consider yourself an artist?
I don’t. I consider myself a documentarian.
I was just in Ibiza, following around Angolan dance troupe Da Banda. They were so cool, colorful, and lithe, and I was just there, marveling in their creativity and recording every moment.
I would say I’m recording this time in history for future generations, and documenting everything from street to celeb style and beyond for this generation.
Q: What’s your favorite part about tastemaking and chronicling fashion?
I get to meet amazing people and travel. Whenever I get frazzled, I have to remember that I have a job where my main requirements, aside from writing, are to get my hair and makeup done on occasion, shop, go to events, and hop on and off planes. It could be much worse.
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring fashion editors?
Intern, intern, intern! Learn from the best. And if you want to start a blog, see what you can contribute to the existing dialogue. The essence of being a writer or editor is to write and create. So create something new or do something better than it has been done before.
Also remember: to be a great writer, read.
And don’t leave it to chance! Read books like On Writing Well, Elements of Style, and Stephen King’s book, On Writing. Study the people you admire/aspire to be, read their works, and see if you can meet with them to gather any nuggets of knowledge.
Q: What do you like best and dislike most about fashion?
I love the expression of fashion. I kind of hate the judgmental part of it all, even though a huge part of the industry is determining what’s hot and what’s not, what’s in or what’s out. Online, people will focus on the most insignificant details to determine what’s wrong or right with an outfit.
I tend to try to find the beauty in most things.
Judgment aside, I dislike the homogenization of style. Instagram and the Tnternet allow people to see others, which is great, but it also births a whole set of men and women who look and dress exactly the same. But then again, if most people look the same, it makes it easier for me to appreciate someone who thinks outside of the box and doesn’t care what others think.
Q: How would you define your personal style and the style Fashion Bomb Daily exemplifies?
My personal style is classic with a kick. I’ll wear a simple shirt dress with a patterned shoe, or experiment with prints. The bottom line I’d like to convey is class. Fashion Bomb Daily style is a bit different. It’s a website for young trendy women, so a lot of readers cling to that aesthetic.
Q: What are some of your fashion goals? Life goals?
Though I’m a bit of an introvert, I’d love to lend some of my fashion knowledge to the small screen as a talking head on a TV show. I plan on writing a few style-focused books.
Ideally the blog will reach a point where it can run without me so I can pursue these other projects
Lastly, I started out wanting to work for Vogue US, and it’s still a goal for me; but perhaps it will happen in that second phase of my life, post blog.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
From travel, from the streets, from blogs, and books.
ABOUT EGOMELI HORMEKU
Egomeli is Editor in Chief of FashionWeekOnline, and creator of The Hormeku Group.