Meet the Editor Who’s Bringing a Sense of Humor to Fashion
The traditional fashion industry lacks a sense of humor. From designers to editors and even stylists, taking things (too) seriously has long been the rule. But thanks to a wide array of influences—from social media driven democratization to the rise of youth cultures—that’s starting to change. And Erin Schwartz, an editor at GARAGE, is helping to spearhead this movement. With a deft mix of humor and social consciousness, Schwartz’s work breaks old norms, creating a fashion writing that’s relatable but incisive. A couple weeks ago, we sat down with Schwartz to get her take on everything from the state of the industry to vintage clothing, and even the Mets theme song.
So, I know you have a degree in urban studies. How did you transition from that to style writing? Did you always have an interest in style and fashion?
Pretty much by accident! Before I started at GARAGE, I wrote more pieces in an urban studies vein. I really only started writing about fashion in earnest last year. But I’ve always been interested in it, albeit in a kind of tragic way when I was a teen. I wore a lot of mall clothes that were either legit teacher outfits or failed experiments, like toe socks on my hands, and a lot of plasticky high-heeled sandals. I thought the New York Times Style section was the Bible. Things have gotten better since then.
One of the things I like about your writing at Garage is how you blend progressive opinions with humor and straight up, legit fashion criticism. I think fashion media could use more of that, but it’s tricky to pull off. How are you able to blend those things so seamlessly?
Thanks! I don’t know, I think fashion media, like most media, is an institution that has certain internal codes around what can and can’t be discussed. I think GARAGE is a special team because we all have different backgrounds, so we approach those codes differently. For me specifically, my family is pretty decidedly to the left, so it feels odd to avoid the political dimensions when analyzing something happening in culture. And as for humor, everything is funny, but fashion can be super funny in a really joyful, affirming way. For example, I’m a big fan of Vaquera, not only because they make beautiful clothes, but also because their collections seem to be the product of these deep, intricate inside jokes between friends.
In the last few years, it feels like the industry is getting friendlier and more open. Do you agree? Why do you think that might be?
I am a relative newcomer so I don’t have much to compare it to, but that sounds right. There are so many great, smaller brands in New York making clothes that feel more interesting than the establishment, and I think there are just more ways in which people can make their own things without going through a gatekeeper.
In one story you wrote, you describe yourself as a self-diagnosed “musical anhedonist” which means that you don’t particularly enjoy music or feel moved by it. Does that make other art, and perhaps style, more important to you? Does it influence what you wear?
Yeah, that was a weird one. I’ve never really gotten into music—like, my computer has one album on it right now, and I’ve got three or four totally unimpeachable artists I play when someone comes over for dinner—but I didn’t find out until last year that there’s actually a term for it. I found that other people who identify with the term enjoy sound through different channels, often involving memory, cooperative music-making, or repetition. For example, one guy in the military likes doing Army cadences, which are songs used to keep a group of soldiers moving in rhythm. I like sound archive recordings, as well as some of the most childish, annoying music in the world, sports jingles and failed Broadway musicals. I tend to be more interested in content of a song than its melody. Like, “Meet the Mets” is a melodically awful song, but the words are quite weird and funny. It definitely means that I was never distracted by wanting to start a band, and I am no good at art, so that’s probably why I’m a writer. I’m not sure it influences what I wear, but I think there is a similar way of emphasizing, like, cultural reference over pure aesthetics. A lot of the clothes I wear aren’t flattering but I enjoy the associations they invite. One week at work I ended up wearing a lot of head-to-toe saffron and someone in the kitchen called me “Mustard Girl” and, if I’m remembering correctly, brought up cults. I am also really into Andy Serkis’s chroma key blue Gollum bodysuit as a fashion reference. None of this looks beautiful, but I like it anyway.
With that in mind, what are your favorite things to wear?
What a fun question! Right now I’m wearing a lot of monochrome and jumpsuits, in part out of laziness. It’s great to just throw on an easy one-piece outfit in the morning. I really like finding ’90s and aughts vintage pieces in gimmick fabrics that aren’t really made anymore, like shimmery mesh-satin overlays and furry shirts. I just got a bag that looks a bit like an ancient Greek water jug that I love. I also only wear shoes I can walk in. Life is too short.