In our long-running series, "How I'm Making It," we talk to people making a living in the fashion industry about how they broke in and found success.
If #menswear (hashtag included) had a poster child, it would almost certainly have to be Lawrence Schlossman. From sending up the movement with the Tumblr-cum-book "Fuck Yeah, Menswear," to heading up Complex's now-defunct menswear site Four Pins, to his current job supplying the jawns through secondhand e-commerce site Grailed, Schlossman has been riding the recent menswear swell through jobs most enthusiasts would kill for.
It began as a hobby. Schlossman, a New Jersey native, headed south to get an economics degree from Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Then, while working at a post-grad finance job he hated, Schlossman started his own blog, which caught the attention of New York based-consulting agency BPMW. He cut his teeth handling publicity for menswear brands like Mark McNairy, as well as blogging and social media — where Schlossman has thrived the most throughout his career. He helped run two successful Tumblr accounts, racked up over 30,000 followers on his personal Twitter account, and still gets paid to run the Four Pins account even though the website itself has shuttered
By mastering social media, he was able to carve out a niche for himself in an industry where standing out is key. Though he balks at being called a "Twitter personality," logging hours developing a unique voice and dedicated following has paid off, particularly at Four Pins. Schlossman recruited other young, unique voices he had found via Twitter to build what would become ground zero for all the #menswear memes, slang and inside jokes the rest of us frantically try — and often fail — to keep up with.
"What Four Pins was originally supposed to be, what was pitched to me, was this super crazy, high-end glossy website that was going to have in-depth profiles on Alexander Wang, we were going to figure out how watches are made — this whole super luxury thing, which obviously I'm sure was going to be a play to the advertisers. Them giving me the keys to the kingdom, it became almost immediately this completely separate thing that turned into this subversive cult voice, little mini-movement thing."
Ultimately, Four Pins would come to an end, but according to Schlossman, most of his career has been the result of "failing upward" and following his gut. So how can you constantly fuck up so badly that you end up hanging around Kanye West's inner circle? Schlossman tells us all about that, the value of selling out and why his dream job is still out there.
How did you get started out in the industry?
I got a little bit of exposure [from my blog] and that's when I was lucky enough to be offered my first job, which was with BPMW. That was my first real foray into fashion and menswear proper at that entry level position, which was weird for my parents because it's like, 'Oh, you're taking a pay cut to like come back and do this thing that has absolutely nothing to do with the degree that you literally got a year and a half ago?' But it was great.
From there, I was lucky enough to join the super team they were building at Gilt Man/Park & Bond at the time as the social media editor. That was really big for me; this was full-on fucking peak hashtag menswear, boys club type thing, which was obviously the world that I was trying to get into and soak up as much as possible. If Nick Wooster is in and out of the office one desk away from you, you're going to do your best to get what little kernel you can from this guy who's a fucking legend.
When you started out doing social media, what did that entail?
It was a lot of tweeting — it was like, peak Twitter, when Twitter really started taking off.... It was building a brand before people were like, 'Oh, you've got to build your brand.'
What was the blog that you started out with?
It's still on sartoriallyinclined.blogspot.com. That's how like all my handles are still, which is like the worst name of all time. I definitely was just ripping off The Sartorialist.
It's funny, the idea of menswear, hashtag menswear, now — I've been there for every wave and transition, from '09 when people were on Blogspot and Wordpress or their own urls doing long form-ish writing and maybe reviewing stuff, to switching over to Tumblr, which is kind of this purely visual inspiration board thing, to Twitter, which is super quick, and then to Instagram, which is all visual again. I've been there for every ebb and flow that has kind of existed, and I think that's where a lot of my success is.
So then you had Fuck Yeah, Menswear, which started as a blog and became a book.
My buddy Kevin Burrows lived in L.A., and he was like, it would be hilarious if there was a thing like Hipster Runoff lampooning this super hyper-nerd culture of menswear. We did it anonymously, which really helped. It got a lot of buzz because I think people thought it was maybe someone in the fashion industry — "who is the white knight within the fashion industry who's burning down the whole muthafuckin' place from the inside?"
Eventually we got outed, but then we got a book deal... The whole thing was, I just want to make Kevin shit his pants laughing, and he was trying to do the same thing. That was why it was so insider: It was like a nerd pen pal thing, and then it became this thing that was way bigger than what we could've hoped. And that's ultimately how you get a book that no one buys or reads.
You guys published a whole glossary with all the slang, which in however many years will be twice as thick with all the new shit.
That was my next question, because it seems like the vocabulary surrounding menswear is just constantly evolving and changing and impossible to keep up with.
As Jacob Gallagher once called it, a Tower of Babel. It's just nerds being nerdy about a thing, and coming up with new ways to make each other laugh through absurdist slang or stuff that is adopted from other subcultures like hip-hop or whatever. It's insane, and we definitely perpetuate all that stuff. You can kind of see Four Pins as this weird extension of Fuck Yeah, Menswear. We maybe toned down it a little bit because yeah, we need advertisers for the site because we need to run a business.
Why change careers and go into editorial with Four Pins?
I was really scared and nervous to take that jump because I had never built something outside of my blogging, but nothing's at stake there. If your blog sucks, you can't get fired, you just have a shitty blog. But I wanted to build something because going to BPMW, they were already established, and then going to Gilt and Park & Bond, I'm the lowest guy in the masthead with all the legends. I had written a book, I had done writing myself and I was like, I want to edit other people.
How did you pull together that team?
There's this generation of dudes that are coming up in menswear, guys like Jon Moy, Jake Woolf, Jake Gallagher and Skylar Bergl — that little galaxy of dudes that are around my age that didn't go to school for this stuff necessarily, they don't get opportunities handed to them. Guys that came from nontraditional paths, but know their shit and love it, and live it and breathe it.
And then you had Fashion Bros.
Fashion Bros was cool. I had worked with James [Harris] at BPMW before he came to Complex.
Nobody watched it. That's why we changed. Originally, it was just us being idiots, but it was like, "Let's interview rappers because maybe more people will want to watch ASAP Ferg and Migos than James and I exclusively." And then a little bit more people watched it, but then it eventually shut down.
Basically I've been very successful by just having a lot of failures across the board.
Then Four Pins was no longer. How did that happen? Were you already kind of on the way out?
Complex wasn't sure what they were going to do with it. There was not enough people reading it to justify the cost of them at a certain point, despite the rabid kind of fanbase that existed on Twitter and in the comments. It was like one of those things where they were going to take care of anyone who wanted to stay, and I definitely could've stayed. Then another opportunity came around to try my hand at something outside of editorial so I took it. There was no hard feelings or anything like that. I feel like people unjustifiably demonize or vilify Complex for some reason. A cool opportunity at Grailed came about and I was like, fuck it, let's try the next thing.
I think what benefits me is that I've always been the new blood, and there are certain people that are interested in pursuing that kind of person when they're making hires versus someone who has a direct connection to the industry, some nepotism bullshit.
They still pay you to run the Four Pins Twitter account. Is it just because they have such a rabid following?
I think it's just good for the brand. That's the issue with Four Pins: Four Pins was this really cool brand that you can't quantify, you can't put a dollar sign on it, it's just a thing that people like.
Now it's just freelance work that I still very much enjoy doing, because it's the one thing that I've built that's bigger than me; reaching more people and that shit is very important to me and weirdly that will be a part of my legacy.
Do you think that being popular on Twitter has helped you professionally?
I don't know! That's the thing. I'll fucking endorse anything. I am a complete fucking sell-out. Being a sell-out to me is sick, but I never get those fucking opportunities. So clearly I'm not a Twitter personality, because if I was, I would be fucking ordering lunch and paying for it now.
What are you most proud of having done at Four Pins?
Giving a platform to a certain kind of guy like myself, who is into stuff, but doesn't take it too seriously and is into trends and wants to try new stuff. Let's just fucking create this billboard for this kind of guy to go and fuck around in the comments and maybe see a cool thing that he's going to save up and buy, read an essay about depression, look at a street style gallery, look at a cool pair of shoes, laugh at a funny joke, read an insightful essay, look at a beautiful picture — I don't know of any other place that was really happening for guys that are fashion-leaning.
What is it about Grailed that you were like, 'I want to work for these people'?
One of my old menswear blogging buddies had been working there and he brought me in to do a little bit of consulting, and then when I was in the inside and really saw this community that they're building.
I did Four Pins for so long and it was so awesome, but eventually it becomes a routine. We figured out what worked and I got to work with a lot of my friends. Being able to pay your friends is the best... But I just got to a point where I wanted to change and think a little bit bigger.
In the past few years, menswear has seen kind of a huge surge —
That's what everyone keeps telling me. Seems like it.
Being on the inside for so long, have you seen any changes?
I'm not saying it's easy getting a job, but there are way more opportunities now, because from top down — whether it's a big corporation or like an entrepreneur — there's money to be made in menswear because more people are paying attention. I think that's phenomenal for anyone who's trying to cut their teeth starting right now.
The way that you've explained your career, it seems like you've -
Failed upwards? [laughs]
Yeah, failed upwards. Is there anything you wish you had known getting into it?
No, I wouldn't change anything. I always trusted myself. The greatest commodity, I think, is an individual's taste level. You can learn about what's hot, what's trending, but an innate level of taste — and I'm not saying I have some God-like level of taste or anything like that. But if you believe in your taste level, and you believe in the things you care about and you think are worthwhile and you chase those things and don't bend in the will of other people pushing you in another direction — even if you're not successful or maybe not as successful — you can still go to bed knowing that you did your own thing and did it your way.
So what's left?
Well, obviously, being Kanye West's personal butler would be my dream job. I think if you would've asked me before this Grailed job, I would've said I would love to some type of overarching creative brand director role, and that's one of the reasons why I went to Grailed because they offered that kind of position.
I've also never been one to go the corporate ladder. I don't think of my career like that, it's more that I go off a feel. So I don't know what's next besides being Kanye West’s butler, which would be fucking sick. I would do it for free tomorrow. Quit my job. 100 percent.
Just for the free -
Just the stories. I think it'll be worth it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.