Isaiah Johnson’s blog, A Collected Gentleman, is a space full of daily outfit posts and style suggestions.
Mr. Johnson goes beyond the threads and makes sure to post encouraging messages for his readers. It’s here that he takes what could be just another fashion blog and makes it into both a personal statement for him and resource for style and confidence for his readers.
We spoke over the phone Sunday evening and (after mulling over if I just wanted a Q&A or news story format) this is what we touched on:
Reverie Slice: When and how did you get into fashion?
Isaiah Johnson: One and a half years ago. I just wanted a change really. Have you ever heard of Street Etiquette? I really like the way they dressed and how their style represented them a certain way. I wanted something different, I don’t know, I just wanted a change. You remember when guys were wearing Jordans, Nikes, baggy pants? That really wasn’t me. I was just wearing it to fit in. For my middle and high school years, that’s what majority of the guys I went to school with wore.
RS: What are you into besides fashion?
IJ: Photography. Since my sophomore year in college. I really got a lot of feedback. Three of my photos have been on exhibit at my local museum and my blog gets a lot of praise. And poetry.
RS: Where does your love of fashion come from?
IJ: I’ve always been an artist. Drawing was a really big passion of mine growing up. I’ve always had an artistic way of thinking. To me, it’s the different materials, patterns, layering. When I think of fashion and style, I think of us as people as canvases, and clothing is just like the paint. Everyone has their own unique style, everyone is their own paint. That’s what I love about it.
I love layering. That’s why I hate the summer, I can’t wear as much as I want to.
RS: How long have you been blogging? What made you choose Tumblr?
IJ: Since March 2011, so a year and a half. Tumblr to me, was a lot easier to work with, and it’s easier to talk to people. It’s like its own little community.
RS: How do you think sites like Independent Fashion Bloggers and Bloglovin help out fashion bloggers?
IJ: Independent Fashion Bloggers I really love. I love the style tips they give. They really say a lot, and their topics, they give great advice when it comes to becoming a better fashion blogger. I always check them daily.
RS: Describe your style?
IJ: This is a hard one. I guess my style would be colorful, preppy in a way. Urban. I’m not afraid to wear anything different. But at the same time I deal with insecurities, what people think of me when I step outside. But I would say I’m the type of dude who isn’t afraid to express himself with style and wear what other people would be afraid to wear, especially as a black male.
RS: A designer or company you’d like to work for?
IJ: Mark McNary. J Crew. Ralph Lauren. Brooks Brothers. I would like to work with Bass (shoes) and Clarks. I’m not really a fan of high end fashion, like Gucci. But I would work with them.
RS: What’s your favorite thing in your closet?
IJ: My Marc Jacobs jean jacket that I found at the consignment store. I really love that piece just ‘cause how much it was [originally] and I got it for $50. I really don’t want to neglect my clothes so I guess you can say everything in my closet. All my pieces are my favorite because they’re all unique in their own way. So I guess they play a part in being a favorite of mine.
RS: Who takes your pictures?
IJ: My girlfriend and little brother when I’m home from college.
RS: Who inspires you fashion-wise? And in general?
My family. My girlfriend. Just life inspires me in general. Just to wake up and see the sky, be able to breathe. Just the ability to create art inspires me. You guys (my followers) Like, you don’t understand, I was growing up and I was a bad kid. I was insecure, but this blog has given me a lot of confidence. And all your feedback. I tell my followers y’all are my biggest inspiration.
RS: How has your blog helped your creativity?
IJ: It’s helped me sharpen my eye when it comes to putting together outfits. Most blogs they post every month, but for me I do it everyday, so it’s really challenging me to put together great pieces
And the feedback, the people who give me feedback and tell me where I can go and learn stuff. That helps me out a lot.
RS: Describe the state of menswear today? What do you like? What don’t you like?
IJ: I like the creativity of it. I love that everybody expresses themselves through style. Everybody’s trying new things, or if they’re bringing back old styles they’re putting their own personal touch to it. One thing I don’t like about it is that I guess the comments and negative feedback that people say about people’s style, they don’t understand it.
RS: Advice for someone wanting step up their style? (Think of something you wish someone had told you when you got into fashion.)
IJ: Do it with a passion, to inspire others. Make it to please yourself and make it to learn. I was telling my friends about making my style blog, and they were telling me “No you shouldn’t do it. You’re not in New York, you’re not going to get anything from it.” And had I listened to them we wouldn’t be having this interview right now.
Go with your heart. Really embrace other fashion bloggers, don’t do it as a competition. Try to be humble. There are a lot of people who are mean or just stick their nose up at you.
RS: You’re ambitious and driven. What’s the force behind your goals?
IJ: Everything I’ve been through in life. Just growing up in a broken home and going to school and coming home with no water, no lights. That really pushes me because I feel like I’ve been through so much, I can’t just stop now. Just to have a better life, be happy doing what I love to do and inspire people.
RS: Any books or magazines you’d recommend?
RS: What do you want people to take away from your blog?
IJ: I want them to take away perseverance; I mean to me it’s deeper than a fashion blog. It’s a blog of someone who wants to make a difference in the world. I would just want people to get confidence. I want people to take way loving themselves no matter who they are, and if they have a passion for something to go after it.
*All photos courtesy of Mr. Johnson*
Edit: Independent Fashion Bloggers, not International Fashion Bloggers. #redcheekmoment
- Fashion Blogger: How to Pitch Independent Fashion Bloggers (prcouture.com)
- Are you an Independent Fashion Blogger? (draftsandexpectations.wordpress.com)
- The ABC of Men’s Fashion with Street Etiquette (hypebeast.com)