March 10, 2016
You, me and 339k followers: An interview with Ian Michael Crumm
By: Sofia Pignitor
I’m meeting with Mr. Ian Michael Crumm at 5:45 pm in the dim light of the Continental. I’ve drank half my martini (and taken five pictures of it) when a handsome character with lush hair and a crisp white button down shirt emerges from the door.
“Sorry I’m late,” he puts his leather envelope clutch on the table. He slides into the booth beside me and the waitress comes over to take our order. The restaurant is loud and he leans in when he speaks.
“Can you hear me okay? I can be mousy. I’ve been trying not to be.” Hearing Ian call himself mousey is comical, considering the source. Ian Michael Crumm is 23 years old and has more followers than Mitt Romney, Flava Flav and Whoopi Goldberg.
As we wait for his drink to come, he executes a modern-day impulse as synonymous and natural as a yawn; the outstretched arm positioned slightly upward for a selfie. We give model looks. He puts the emoji of lips over my real lips. He posts it to his Snapchat story.
How did you get started?
In high school I was co-president of the National Art and Honors Society. My friend and I decided we wanted to start a fashion show. Short story- it was great. I spearheaded the project. This was my junior year. My senior year, I directed the show and the creative behind it. So when I came to Drexel University, I had this fire under me. I got linked up to help with a show in Old City, and I also was working with an event planner and helped do a show for her. At the same time, at Drexel, I was writing for the school paper and wanted to pursue writing. I wrote a few articles that were style related… I decided I wanted to have an online outlet to document things. I had dabbled with Tumblr blogging in high school and casual photoshoots with friends, but nothing like what I do now. It gained a following and I ended up rebranding. It shifted from being an online outlet to showcase these random articles and fashion show stuff to more of a personal style blog. Then it evolved from there. I grew my site and grew bylines along the way.
What year was it when you started and how have you seen the social media landscape change since you’ve started?
The end of 2012. I had others, but my current site was created in 2012. Back then social media was a secondary thought (now I see it shifting where even for page views and clicks, it’s the reverse.) I‘ll shoot solely with Facebook or Instagram in mind. And the blog is secondary.
So would you say you’re focused more now on visual content than editorial and articles?
I feel like it’s a hybrid of the two. There is more content going up on social. Sometimes I share posts from the blog to social but then if you go to the site there’s extra photos, or that’s where you would read about what I’m wearing. Verses on social you would just see tags and see a shortened version. If someone wants to know why I posted, they can have the fast version on social or get the elaboration on my blog. But there are things for social that I wouldn’t turn into a blog.
So what would you say is a moment when you thought “Wow this is catching on?”
I joined the Details magazine network, they had a whole blogger network where they would re-publish content. The page is live but the mag is now dissolved (R. I P). But that was when larger companies really started contacting me. The following started because Details would share a post and the traffic would increase a lot. Then, a year later I did a project with Refinery 29, three events with GQ and became a GQ insider.
Do you get spotted in public?
Yeah. Doesn’t everyone? (He laughs)
What’s the craziest thing a fan has ever done?
I don’t know if I want this written down. There’s a guy who persistently emails me and tells me that I have “nice cakes” and I don’t know what that means.
Do you find that most of your followers are in Philly?
No, the majority of them are national and international, but I have a strong New York and Philadelphia base.
What is the coolest benefit of having Instagram fame?
I love when brands and people invite me to events, I really enjoy hosting fashion and grooming events, and I obviously love clothes. I like showcasing my vision and interacting with my followers, learning what they like and respond to.
Do you ever have brands that don’t sponsor you but you push? What’s a brand you believe in?
There are multiple, my site is sponsored and editorially driven. Sponsored features have to be in line with my personal style, and I do refuse partnerships if I feel like the brand and I don’t align. You like the things you like.
What’s something that is challenging about what you do? The upkeep of it?
Everything is content, content, content. Ten years ago I couldn’t be doing this as much- and as easily as I am today. But, there is ton of upkeep on social media channels. I try more with Snapchat- but it does literally become your full time job. If I’m going to be a source, I don’t want a certain outlet to die off- but every week there’s a new outlet and you need to decide if you’re going to use it and how you’re going to integrate it.
What social media outlet is your favorite?
Instagram is so visual. I try to keep all my posts exclusive for each outlet. I love Instagram, but on Instagram if someone posts 10 photos you’ll clutter someone’s feed; whereas on Snapchat you decide to watch someone’s story. You don’t have to contribute to a feed. I like that on Snapchat I can share more than I would on another outlet because if someone wants to follow my day-to-day or my experience at an event and I snap ten times, I’m not throwing it in their face.
What is your next step? Whose career do you aspire to follow? This is a lifestyle, do you want to do it forever?
Aside from my personal site, I have another site called Wear We Went, which is a partnership. We highlight high-end hotel properties around the world. My personal brand is going to evolve. My site is grooming, reviews, living, home décor. It’s becoming more of my version of a men’s digital publication. It’s gonna be a 360-degree view of a well-lived life.
Who is the coolest famous person you’ve ever met?
Ken Downing, the fashion director and senior vice president of Neiman Marcus. He was at Drexel two years ago and I did an interview with him for Philly.com. He complimented my outfit and it calmed my nerves. I’ve seen him at fashion week since. He is nice and I enjoyed that interview with him.
Is there an end in sight for Social media’s omnipresence or is it here to stay?
The channels people are on and why they use them on differ. There are different reasons to use different outlets. I don’t think using technology to interact or learn is going away, but it will continue to evolve. Instead of “liking” on Facebook now you can “wow” or “ha-ha” a post, which opens up a new usage for that website. These sites are always evolving and changing and that will change how everyone can use these platforms. I don’t see it going away.
What are you working on now?
I’m relaunching my site. There is going to be new branding, a new logo and a new color scheme.
We head out and Ian calls an Uber. He takes a Snapchat video as we leave. We’re heading to a party tonight to support his friend’s art showcase in Fishtown. He tells me the crisp white button down he’s sporting tonight is made by the store we’re going to, Kit and Ace, a company who describes their style as “elevated basics in high-tech fabrics for people who live a full-contact lifestyle.” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I’m certain Ian fits the bill. We get to Fishtown and he disappears into a field of cashmere T-shirts.
The night ends when I say my goodbyes and he follows me out with his friend and photographer, Brie. We walk past the gritty, rod iron door of an abandoned factory and they decide it would be the perfect place to shoot, but it’s too dark. I watch as they continue the modern pilgrimage, searching for the right background with just the right amount of light. Later that night, I can’t help but wonder how many Snapchat followers he has.