Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Philly Style Blogger Profile: Swabreen Bakr of URBSVOX and iPhoto Philly

Name: Swabreen Bakr
Blog(s): URBSVOX and iPhoto Philly
Age: 28
Hometown: Philly, by way of Georgetown, Guyana and Caracas, Venezuela
Day Job: Social media marketer and brand strategist for a local non-profit. A graduate of Drexel University's program in digital media, she's something of a digital jack-of-all-trades: a graphic designer, illustrator, photographer, freelance writer, web site builder, and, of course, blogger.
What She's Wearing: Coat by Zara, knit by Anthropologie, chambray shirt from Macys, a scarf from Zara, a pair of Diesel Jeans, and boots from Free People.

Swabreen has been building websites from scratch for years and set up her first blog way back in the dark ages of 2000. She was a big fan of Japanese anime back then, and she and her friends used the new medium to share content and build a community around their fandom. She was also part of the first generation of YouTubers, posting clips of hard to find anime and assorted related geekdom. For Swabreen, blogging has become second nature. She's been doing it so long it's just who she is.

Swabreen's blog iPhoto Philly documents the streets and sites of Philadelphia from the perspective of an iPhone camera. She began the blog on something of a lark a few years back when living in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, a place with architecture so quaint it forces you to pay attention to it. It has since become a more serious project, more professional and with a stronger sense of mission. She sees the iPhone as a tool for training one's eye, for becoming visually educated, as it were. When wielding one instead of a DSLR, you don't think about f-stops and exposures. You can't fiddle with settings. You simply compose shots and shoot. It trains you, she says, to see a moment and grab it. Ultimately, Swabreen claims, shooting with an iPhone makes you a better photographer.

URBSVOX, Swabreen's other primary blog at the moment, has a somewhat different mission: "to be an inspirational showcase of stylish brands, creative people and seasonal trends." She features some of the East Coast's most fashionable and creative people in vivid photo shoots and brief interviews, along with the latest looks and coolest accessories, modeled, typically by Swabreen herself. It's one part personal style blog to two parts online lifestyle magazine.

One of Swabreen's favorite Philly brands at the moment is Norman Porter, a denim and leather goods company operating out of Fishtown, Philly's northernmost outpost of urban hipster grime. She likes their classic sensibility, their fussiness over the details, their alignment with bespoke ideals, even when focusing on the basics. She likes their emphasis on durability over trendiness, function over fashion. Menswear, she says, has really taken the lead in building a sustainable, non-toxic, non-exploitative approach to apparel production. It doesn't depend on seasonal trends and favors the hand-made over the mass-produced. It's got a mechanic's sensibility, with tailoring taking the place of tinkering. It's "slow fashion" almost in spite of itself. Too bad there isn't a lot comparable going on in women's wear, she laments, at least not in Philly. As for herself, she hopes to start building a wardrobe of "investment pieces," items of well-made durable clothes that don't need to be replaced every season. They are worth the extra cost, she believes.

Swabreen and her generation grew up doing organically what companies these days have to train themselves to do. They build "personal brands" through online platforms, grassroots networks of relationships through casual media exchange. She now uses the same social media tools in both her professional and personal life, and her blogs, she says, were the primary training she needed to do what she does for a living. In fact, her current boss hired her in large part because of her blogs. The personal and the professional are harder and harder to tease apart these days. They are such old-fashioned, pre-Internet distinctions.


  1. Swabreen does an excellent job with Urbs Vox. It's one of my favorite blogs! Her photography is great, and I love her writing style! Great shots and interview, Brent.

  2. My new dress was thin, and needed some sort of ironing/wrinkle release--we ironed mine on low, and it was totally fine. You have to have a good support with something like this.
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