Style Rookie

Thirteen-year-old blogger Tavi Gevinson takes fashion by storm, risking backlash

NO KIDDING: Blogger Tavi Gevinson, 13, is trying on the fashion industry for size.
NO KIDDING: Blogger Tavi Gevinson, 13, is trying on the fashion industry for size. (Courtesy Of Tavi Gevinson Via Ap)
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By Booth Moore
Sunday, January 3, 2010

Rodarte's collection for Target launched last month, which for die-hard fashion lovers is shopping nirvana. Now anyone can own a piece of the label's sunshine-meets-Goth aesthetic, with spidery lace sweaters and stockings, tulle blouses and slip dresses priced $9.99 to $79.99, instead of the four figures that Rodarte's clothes typically command.

To get the word out, designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy didn't tap red-carpet fans Reese Witherspoon and Kirsten Dunst, or vintage guru Cameron Silver, who helped put them on the fashion map. They didn't go to Vogue, or any other glossy magazine that has championed their collections, which have been inspired by things as disparate as horror movies and California condors.

Instead, they turned to Tavi Gevinson, a 13-year-old blogger and muse from the suburbs of Chicago, to star in a behind-the-scenes video about the line on the Target Web site.

A self-described "dork that sits inside all day wearing awkward jackets and pretty hats, scatters black petals on [Comme des Garcons founder] Rei Kawakubo's doorsteps and serenades her in rap," Gevinson launched her Style Rookie blog in March 2008. In her early posts, it was refreshing to read about someone who thought of the world as her costume box, who wore guitar straps as belts, used "thrifting" as a verb and "Rodarte-slashed" her secondhand sweaters because she couldn't have the real thing.

Her runway critiques were so thoughtful that people assumed she was a fake. Then she took time off from school to attend New York Fashion Week in September, chaperoned by her father, getting her picture snapped as she sat front row at shows. The same month, she landed on the cover of Pop magazine and was featured in the pages of Love magazine, interviewed by Pixie Geldof. In November, she sat with the Mulleavys, designer Hedi Slimane and Pop editor Dasha Zhukova at the Museum of Contemporary Art's 30th anniversary gala in Los Angeles.

By year's end, Tavi had penned a column about the spring 2010 runway shows for the January issue of Harper's Bazaar. She has met Marc Jacobs and Yohji Yamamoto, traveled to Japan to visit Kawakubo's studio, and been gifted with designer clothes months before the collections land in stores.

For the Rodarte for Target video, the pint-size prodigy was filmed backstage at the Rodarte runway show, interviewing bold-facers such as Elijah Wood and Cecilia Dean. Tavi also accompanied the designers to North Dakota, sitting on hay bales and exchanging bons mots during the shoot for the collection look book.

In just one year, Tavi (and a host of other bloggers) went from obscurity to celebrity, and Rodarte went from winner of the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Emerging Womenswear Designer of the Year Award to winner of the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award.

But what happens next year? It is tempting to think that Tavi (who originally went by the nom de blog of Tavi Williams) will be a short-lived sensation, the product of a culture gone Internet-crazy, in which bloggers are getting book deals and clothing lines while seasoned journalists and industry vets get laid off. And sure enough, the backlash has begun. Elle's Anne Slowey told New York magazine's the Cut blog, "I'm sort of fascinated in the same way the world was with JT Leroy. You look at her video, and the writing doesn't sync up with the way she talks about fashion." Designer Christopher Kane told British Vogue, "No one who wants to read a serious review of a show is going to look at what a 14-year-old thinks."

Except that the kid (if she is indeed tapping out her own stuff, and we have no reason to believe she isn't) does have a way with words. In the Bazaar column, she describes Francisco Costa's dresses for Calvin Klein as looking like "they'd been stained with tears." She's got personal style, too, in that ugly-pretty, Prada-Marc Jacobs way.

But Tavi was a darling because she was on the outside. And now that she's been handed the fashion world on a silver platter, she is looking less and less like the kid everybody fell in love with.

No matter. At her age, there's more than enough time for a second act.

-- Los Angeles Times

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