Unless you’ve been living inside a media-blocking forcefield for the past few years, you’ve probably heard of Tavi Gevinson. But just in case you’ve somehow managed to avoid reading about her in the Chicago Tribune or New York Times, or seeing her on BBC or the Jimmy Fallon show, here’s a quick review of why you should know her name: Tavi started a fashion blog that quickly attracted a huge following—huge enough that she was invited to events as prestigious as New York Fashion Week—then started her own online magazine, which garnered over a million page views in its first week. Oh yeah, and the blog that started it all began when she was 11 years old.
The Illinois native’s impressive list of accomplishments is enough to make any human being over the age of 18 feel pretty inadequate. At an age when my parents were congratulating me for getting my driver’s license, Tavi’s were feeling proud because she’d published her first book and was being called “the future of journalism” by Lady Gaga.
Although Tavi may be the most impressive example of a teen blogger making it big, she’s not the only fashion influencer who can’t celebrate her victories with champagne. Her fellow Rookie contributor Arabelle Sicardi of Fashion Pirate wrote for Teen Vogue; Jane Aldridge’s blog Sea of Shoes helped her land a gig as shoe designer for Urban Outfitters—before either of them had turned 20. Googling “teen fashion blogger” results in hosts of top-10 lists from magazines like Vogue and Seventeen that further illustrate the growing trend.
Why are teen fashion bloggers doing so well?
In light of the fashion industry’s often cut-throat exclusivity, it’s easy to wonder why teen fashion bloggers have been so successful where so many with twice their education and connections have failed. These are the some of the most significant elements I speculate contribute to the phenomenon:
1. Blogging is a highly accessible medium. While it takes a much-coveted direct invitation to get into Fashion Week events, one need not have any credentials or industry connections in order to begin blogging. This means that anyone of any age can start their own blog, and try their hand at being a writer/photographer/stylist/fill in the blank—much as Tavi did as a middle schooler back in 2008.
2. Teens have more leisure time than ever. According to a University of Utah study, the average teen’s leisure time had increased by an hour and a half from the 70s to the early 2000s. The effect this has is twofold: One, the new teenage blogger has more time to devote to their posts, resulting in more regular blogging and more steady improvement. Two, non-blogging teens have more time to follow their blogging peers, thus further encouraging the bloggers themselves.
3. Teen bloggers are likely to attract teen followers. This is not to say that teens don’t admire and read blogs authored by those outside their age bracket; nonetheless, it’s unsurprising to discover that teens value the voices of other teens, as well. Considering point 2, this is a huge boon for young bloggers who consequentially tap into one of the most internet-using cross-sections of society, according to an early-2000s Gallup poll. This leads to the third point:
4. Teenagers are often highly loyal and enthusiastic fans. To use Tavi Gevinson’s own words from a June 2013 Miss Vogue article, “We know fandom like no other creature could ever understand it (see Beatlemania to Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never and the Columbiners)… For teenagers, fandom isn’t just fandom—it’s identity.” This may help explain Rookie Magazine’s incredible popularity explosion, along with the large followings of other young fashion personalities via the internet (see 20-year-old model Cara Delvingne’s 831,710-strong Twitter following). When teens find something they like, they stick to it, rally around it, and identify by it, making them some of the most desirable followers any blogger could hope for.
In spite of all these factors in their favor, teen fashion bloggers’ ages certainly contribute to obstacles they must overcome. Early in her career, some critics asserted that Tavi must have had an adult helping author her posts, based on the maturity of her writing. But even if one accepts that these allegations are unfounded and concedes that Tavi is simply a gifted and intelligent young woman, it’s easy to speculate that the amount of fame and attention she’s received from such a young age can’t be healthy.
Contrary to the expectations of many, Tavi has remained a very grounded, sensible 17-year-old who is quite aware that she’s “still growing up.” Though her example may be an extraordinary one, it’s the kind that gives hope that this generation’s teenagers really can rebel against low expectations—and it’s enough to convince one that maybe the attack of the teens isn’t such a bad thing after all.
“Crowning Glory,” by Tavi Gevinson, in Miss Vogue UK June 2013 (print only)
New York Times article about Tavi