Teen fashion blogger turns media mogul

By Harriet Walker

Tavi Gevinson. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user Spencer Tweedy
Tavi Gevinson. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user Spencer Tweedy

Web wunderkind Tavi Gevinson shot to fame in 2008 at just 12 years old, when her blog Style Rookie became a must-click for the fashion crowd.

Since then, she has gone from strength to strength, and from front row to backstage, ad campaigns and magazine covers.

And this week saw the launch of her own online magazine, of which she is editor-in-chief and which sees her presiding over a staff of almost 40 people, most of whom are older than her.

Rookie uploads content three times a day: after school, at dinner time and late in the evening, "when you should be writing a paper but are Facebook stalking instead".

The formula is chatty and lively: infographics and fiction are blended with confessional pieces, art and music criticism, trend reports and even advice from contributors who have already survived their difficult adolescent years.

Being fashion's flavour of the month doesn't always bode well for your longevity but Gevinson, who lives with her family outside Chicago, appears to have struck a chord with her fans across the globe, with her straight-talking, third-wave feminism-informed outlook on matters of love, life, fashion and homework.

Her blogposts gained notoriety for their light-hearted take on some of the most serious creators in the fashion industry, and designers soon began issuing embossed invites to Gevinson, queuing up to have the pint-sized pundit at their shows.

But with this venture, Tavi - as she is known to her fans - is looking to her peer group for inspiration, encouraging them to comment on and contribute to the online community she is building with her new team.

Her inspiration comes via now defunct American teen mag Sassy, which in turn inspired a generation of now thirtysomething-year-old creatives to sally forth and seize the day, with its era-defining voice during the Eighties and early Nineties.

The website does indeed hark back to a different generation of "teen" publications with vintage graphics, arts and crafts "how to" features and cartoons rather than the usual glut of sex, shopping and celebrities.

Sasha Wilkins, who set up her website LibertyLondonGirl in 2006 and has pioneered the "digitorial" format, says: "Tavi isn't obsessed with celebrities, diets and sex. With a digital property, you can be more selective with content."

But you do need to worry about funding, and where Gevinson's start-up capital has come from remains unclear, though advertising is being sold through the agency New York Media. Her father, Steve, acts as her manager.

Of her staff, Gevinson has said: "All of these rascals agreed to take part in this project before there was the slightest possibility of paying them grown-up cash."

"People who build brands online make their money offline," adds Sasha Wilkins, "whether through consultancy or speaking tours and conventions. Maybe Tavi will spin this website into events."

Gevinson has already proved herself immensely savvy. She was muse to a recent high-street/designer collaboration in America and she has previously organised music events through her blog. She is also inured to the commercial spirit behind most things aimed at her age group.

"I don't have the answers," she wrote this week in her first editor's letter. "Rookie is not your guide to being a teen... It is, quite simply, a bunch of writing and art we like and believe in... Rookie is the place to make the best of the beautiful pain and cringe-worthy awkwardness of being an adolescent girl."

- INDEPENDENT

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 16 Apr 2014 20:23:54 Processing Time: 264ms