Tavi, the 13-year-old fashion blogger and burgeoning celebrity, has appeared on magazine covers, sat front-row at New York Fashion Week, forged a friendship with the Rodarte designers, and appeared as the guest of honor at Rei Kawakubo’s holiday party. But Harper’s Bazaar hired her to do the thing that made her famous in the first place: write! For the January issue, she pens a column about the spring collections:
The idea of looking “effortless” is always in style, but designers re-invent the idea each season. So now they’re having fun mixing prints, textures, and accessories (at Louis Vuitton especially), going all out and not thinking twice about it. The breezy coolness simply comes with having the confidence to slip into a shirt-and-skirt combo with naked ladies printed all over it (see Miu Miu) or a dress with holes carved out (Viktor & Rolf’s literal take on “cutting back”).
Bazaar executive editor Kristina O’Neill told WWD, “I knew that she had written some positive things about our September issue, and I e-mailed her after the show to see if she would be interested.” She also pointed out that Tavi is the magazine’s youngest contributor ever.
It would be easy for people like us to feel a little insulted by magazines hiring 13-year-olds to do the job of a serious fashion critic. But as Huffington Post’s longtime contributing style editor Lesley M. M. Blume, also an author of children’s books for girls Tavi’s age, notes, the story will generate a ton of publicity, just like the magazine’s December cover story on Twilight. “A lot of people are going to read this. Is this a smart marketing move? Of course,” Blume said. Did she get the sense people were taking Tavi seriously? “I think she’s very dear, but I think it’s crazy. I think it was insulting enough when we were expected as adult women to take our fashion cues from Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. All of a sudden women in the fashion world were starting to look like bag ladies. I mean, that’s very silly.”
Blume doesn’t think the industry’s top buyers will take Tavi’s fashion critiques seriously. “Are the creative directors of Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman going to tailor their purchases according to [her tastes]? Probably not. But is Harper’s Bazaar going to sell a bunch of issues because of the novelty? Yes. Will she end up on morning shows? Yes she will,” Blume said. “I don’t think she’s a fashion sage, I think she’s a novelty and I think she’s going to be used as a marketing device as a novelty.”
Elle’s Anne Slowey said Harper’s Bazaar hiring Tavi “feels a bit gimmicky.” Yet she finds her riveting. “I’m fascinated by anyone who’s willing to, like, rock personal style, and you’ve got to give her that, she’s got great style,” Slowey said. She thinks there is a disconnect between Tavi’s video about Rodarte’s Target collection and her writing. “I’m sort of fascinated in the same way the world was with JT Leroy,” Slowey explained. “You look at her video, and the writing doesn’t sync up with the way she talks about fashion. When I watched that video it smacked of this ethereal vagueness — this vacantlike quality where it was like everyone was on Vicodin. Like everyone was uncomfortably dumb except for me.” She added, “I’m not trying to take anything away from her — her love of fashion, her love of style. She’s either a tween savant or she’s got a Tavi team.”
Both Slowey and Blume raised concern about what effect all this attention could have on someone so young. “She will be a story for awhile and it will either die out, and she’ll fade away, or she’ll become a fashion editor,” Blume said. “She might not be so sweet and precocious in a few years after being inundated with this kind of press. Worst-case scenario she ends up overwhelmed and messed up, but no one can predict that.” Blume thinks people feel protective of Tavi not necessarily because she’s so young — youth is nothing new in fashion (Brooke Shields and her Calvins, anyone?) — but because she’s “bookish.” Look at young models: They may be taken advantage of all the time in this city, but we seldom hear those stories.
“People in fashion are constantly looking for the next unique boundary-pushing extreme thing to get excited about, but, you know, it’s like outsider art,” Slowey said. “What am I getting out of a 13-year-old’s opinion about fashion? How does that help me distill the collections? What am I supposed to be buying? That’s what an editor’s job at a magazine is.” She has no plans to commission a story from Tavi for Elle.