#INTERVIEWS A talk with Denim and Pop Culture Expert Samuel Trotman @samutaro

  • Samuel Trotman samutaro interview denim expert

First of all, we’d like you to introduce yourself and talk about your background, the younger Samuel. What were your first influences (style/music)

I’ve been working as a denim specialist in the fashion industry for around 10 years. During that time I’ve worked at global trend agency WGSN where I worked as senior denim editor and have since gone on to become a freelance consultant where I advise global denim brands on the latest innovations in denim as well as wider culture shifts.

A lot of what my job involves is mix of travelling, photojournalism, reporting and editing. I spend my workdays travelling around the world, attending everything from fashion events to visiting denim factories and going to music festivals to discover new inspiration. No week is ever the same. This summer alone, I’ve been travelled to Ho Chi Minh City, Seoul, Hong Kong, Copenhagen, Milan and Paris so this gives you an idea of varied regions I visit for denim inspiration. My main responsibilities are to delve into the lifestyles and shopping habits of denim consumers around the world and keep a close eye on denim trends, which includes everything from styling, key silhouettes, fabrics, wash and finish. Most people think of denim as just a pair of jeans, but there is a whole blue world out there with a huge cultural following around it!

One of my main points of interest has always been geared around style and music subcultures, both of which are intrinsically linked. This, along with my passion for denim has been the basis for my content on @samutaro. Denim is one of the few fabrics that’s been part of the most important subcultures throughout the past century so for me it’s about unearthing the stories and telling them in a compelling way on my feed. Im mainly drawn to more near-nostalgic stories of the 80s, 90s and 2000s as I feel these are some of the period that don’t get as much attention when it comes to denim. But for me these are some of the most fascinating and eclectic era’s for style. Things like my exploration of denim in hip-hop, grunge and nu-metal are closely linked to the scenes I was into when I was a teenager. This specific subcultures still resonate true today and have a greater impact on culture at large which is why I’m interested in connecting past and the present.

What are you up to now? Any interesting project coming out?

Since going freelance I’ve had more time to really build a stronger identity and strategy with the account. Earlier this year I got given the opportunity to share my knowledge over on Grailed’s instagram (s/o Lawrence!) where I do a weekly gallery of inspiration images and stories. This has really been a really great project to work on – both for sharing my stories to a wider audience and also getting to connect with a bigger readership on my page too. This exposure has also opened a few other doors for me and I have one new platform I will be working with by the end of the year. It’s a big name but hasn’t been announced yet so watch this space. I’m really excited for it though!

A lot of people have been asking about me creating video which is an area I’d like to explore as I think this would create even more engaging content for the people. Just need to figure out exactly how it’s going to be done and who I can partner with to get the best results.

Physical product is something I’ve always wanted to present as its the natural progression from where I’m currently at. Im conscious of not just making another brand or just selling tees, so it will be more conceptual based and definitely created from upcycling vintage and promoting responsible fabric and manufacturing technologies. I will tie in my theme of story-telling within it too so it will be just as much about education as it is about the the final product.

What are your sources of information? And how do you manage to create such a load of content so quickly?

I get asked this a lot and people often hmu on dm’s to find out how I find some of the rarer stories I share on the feed. Tbh a lot of what I post is mainly instinct and what Im feeling at the time. I think this has a lot to do with my work in trend and recognising certain patterns of interest or what products or stories haven’t been talked about but are super relevant for now. For instance, I just posted a story on ASAT Camo. This is a particular style of hunting camo that’s been repurposed by the likes of Number (N)ine, Bape and Supreme. Everyone recognises this pattern as its all over instagram but for me its about delving deeper into its roots and history and then grouping the information together to make it a cohesive story. I think this is what people are really liking on my page is the deeper level of research and information they get from the posts. I find a lot of the time on instagram people just repost images with the designer and year, but little else information. There are some accounts who actually do this well and it’s about having rarer shots or super tight curation, which works. @hidden, @liljupiter and @convertingculture are all super inspiring and have very specific styles and have really set the tone for this new style insta accounts that feel more like Tumblr. But there are a lot of accounts that just post whatever is trending and you get this cycle of images that make a lot of noise without actually saying anything. I guess it depends what people want out of it. Sometimes you want to just scroll and be inspired. But for me I want to go deeper with it and it actually worked. I was surprised that people were actually reading some the longer posts and a dialogue started to develop.

Regarding my sources of information, it really varies depending on the type of post Im doing. I think the images that do the best are the ones that are either unseen, like mag scan or just a more rare shot, or ones that are a flat lay of a product that looks like its been taken by me, as opposed to a web shot. I think people like a personal element to it and especially detail shots where you can really see every aspect of the garment so it looks like you’ve seen it first hand. Tumblr is an amazing resource and I feel like Instagram is pretty much the 2.0 version of that rn. I also do a lot of research for the information I put in the posts and that can really vary depending on what’s been written online, and sometimes I actually work with other experts to get an opinion so its actually primary research. It does take time though especially for some of the deeper pieces which require a lot of reading and writing. I mostly do this in the evenings and get posts cued a day ahead so I can just click post.

What’s your opinion on today’s fashion (content and media)?

The fashion world is ranked number two as the most polluting industry in the world after oil. You only have to look at the news to see the the critical climate levels the world is experiencing. We’ve had 25 years of skepticism and arguments to whether sustainability is a thing in fashion. No doubt you guys will have heard the warnings from the UN that we have 12 years left to stop dramatic change to our environment which will affect us all. And this coupled with increased population increase and in turn increased apparel consumption means that we have no option but to consider how we are going to change our current systems and consumption patterns. Demonstrations like Extinction Rebellion and the efforts from young activists like Greta Thunberg are testament to the changes we need to make as consumers to help reduce our collective impact on the planet.

Obviously as consumers we have a choice so it’s important to make more conscious decisions on where we spend our money. I’m a big advocate of shopping for vintage and obviously a lot of the content I post is geared around archival product which I hope inspires people to think more critically about their purchases and choose something that has a deeper emotional value and greater quality as opposed to a quick fix from fast fashion. There are some great resources to help you navigate the murky waters of ‘sustainable purchasing’ (if you can call it that). Obviously Grailed and Depop are great resell platforms where you can get some steals, and one other name I’d like to s/o is @future__dust which showcases the people and brands who are making cool, responsibly made products. It also features some really insightful quotes and articles which will help educate and build your knowledge around social responsibility without being too heavy.

Interview done by Iñaki Alaba