No Longer A 'Style Rookie,' Teen Sets Fashion Scene

Most girls play dress-up in private. Not Tavi Gevinson. By the time she was 13, her blog, Style Rookie, had earned her a front-row seat at Paris Couture fashion shows. Host Audie Cornish profiles Gevinson, now 15 and a veteran of the fashion world, writing for Harper's Bazaar and launching her own online magazine.

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AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish. Most girls get to play dress up, fall in and out of love with the world of fashion, and figure out their own sense of style more or less in private. Not this generation, and not Tavi Gevinson. By the time Gevinson was 13, her blog "Style Rookie" had earned her a front-row seat at Paris couture fashion shows. And, yes, she says, it was surreal.

TAVI GEVINSON: You have a room full of adults, or a room full of people, who are all wearing black. And it was confusing, I think, to people because I don't like, have famous parents. So I did feel kind of like a novelty.

CORNISH: Tavi Gevinson is now 15 and a veteran of the fashion world. She's written for Harper's Bazaar and reported for Fashion TV, and just launched her own online magazine. She lives in the Chicago suburbs and earlier this week, she sat down to talk with me from member station WBEZ.

I was a pretty terrible dresser in junior high and high school, and was probably even nervous getting dressed this morning knowing I was talking to you, even though you can't see me. That being said, it's sort of hard to think of chronicling how you look at that age, and putting it out there as fashion.

GEVINSON: It's hard to like, judge yourself on this. So I don't even really know if I did have good style or if I still do. But I think that what appealed to people was that I just found a lot of fun in getting dressed, and finding inspiration in different places. And I guess it was really exciting when the response was positive and eventually, I could meet some people who I was just used to admiring from afar, being kind of a nerd over.

CORNISH: The blog that started it all was "Style Rookie." Gevinson posted photos of herself in her backyard, her hair a mop top, her clear-framed eyeglasses oversized. She wore piles of skirts or rhinestone sneakers or pink, furry capes and pillbox hats. Soon, designers trying to decipher the brave, new media world of fashion bloggers sent her clothes.

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CORNISH: By 2008, Gevinson was a fairy-sized fixture at the Paris couture shows, sharing air kisses with Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld, getting backhanded compliments from elders in the fashion press.

HILARY ALEXANDER: The blogging and iPoding generation, she's probably, you know, the next big thing or flavor of the month. And I'm sure, you know, in a couple of years' time, maybe we'll have a 5-year-old blogging.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: So after mixing it up with the media, Gevinson created her own magazine. It's called Rookie, and it's not just about fashion. Just like its teenaged readers, Rookie is a colorful mix of contradictions. Gevinson says dozens of contributors write about everything from movies to dealing with bullies, to her growing interest in feminism.

One of the goals you've described is to cover topics that the mainstream teen media doesn't. What do you think is missing in magazines - or other blogs, for that matter - when it comes to teenage life?

GEVINSON: I just don't really see a lot of honesty or, you know, I'm just not convinced by a lot of the writing about topics like sex or drugs - or friendships even. I'm not sure that we like, have all the answers, but that's why we just try to be honest. And, you know, many of our articles about something like feminism are just about us, the writers, figuring it out. And I think that when teen magazines do talk about it, they say something really simple about how you should love your body and be confident or whatever, but then in the actual magazine, there will still be stuff that maybe doesn't really make you love your body.

CORNISH: Aside from keeping yourself busy with school and the magazine and still your blog, do you have time to do anything else? I mean, is there some other hobby or sport or thing that you do, where you just get to be a teenager?

GEVINSON: Yeah. I mean, I am in an a cappella group at school and plays, and I am in a band with a couple of friends. I mean, those are places where I can just be a teenager. But, I mean, my blog is just being myself, and Rookie is being a teenager. So it doesn't really feel like I go into some kind of adult mode when I'm writing something for Rookie 'cause I am still referencing "Mean Girls" in every other line.

CORNISH: So where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

GEVINSON: I really don't know. I mean, there are a lot of different things I want to do when I'm older. I'd like to be able to write. I have other interests, but it's hard knowing what you just admire from afar but you're not actually good at. So, I don't know.

CORNISH: But Tavi Gevinson, trendsetter, fashion critic and multimedia personality, is only in high school. She has plenty of time to figure it out.

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