x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Fashion talk: The blogosphere delivers the next guru

A precocious and talented teenager looks likely to become a leading name among style pundits.

There is nothing fashion magazines love more than filling their glossy pages with features about precocious youths. The younger the better. Having worked in the style media for many years on titles from Vogue and Elle to a celebrity-obsessed British tabloid, I know this to be fact. I've learnt not to be too disappointed when a "rising star" in fact turns out to be the rakishly handsome son of an industry "insider" who is told exactly what to do/say by mummy or daddy.

Over the years I've become cynical for good reason. I once was a judge on a TV model competition show and had to feign surprise when the winner turned out to be the daughter of a famous rock star whom I had worked with, booked via the agency running the event - a year earlier. Nepotism, coupled with the "old boys" college network, which fast-tracks the "right" sorts within fashion, is rife in the clothing industry - but there are exceptions.

One thing that has surprised me recently is that many more of the precocious youths who are currently making their names in the fashion blogosphere in particular aren't cracking the old-school fashion industry set-up. Why aren't traditional magazines taking advantage of fashion-loving Susie Lau types? And more importantly, how long will it be before the most famous fashion blogger, Tavi Gevinson, officially moves to print? I reckon I can now stop holding my breath.

In July I read that Gevinson, the teenager behind the blog Style Rookie, had spoken at a conference in Canada, lamenting the loss of her favourite magazine, Sassy (the cult teen mag launched in 1988 before she was born, and which is most famous for discovering Chloë Sevigny in the early 1990s), and hinting at a future editorship. Now, if anyone was a candidate for blogger-turned-editor it would have to be Gevinson, who began writing her blog at the age of 11 in 2008. She became an overnight sensation, thanks mostly to the fashion industry which immediately embraced her because of her reverence towards designers, a seeming knowledge of the industry way beyond her years (let alone experience of designer clothing) and, not least, her cuter-than-cute teenage taste.

Such was the perfection of her blog's content, Gevinson found fans in Marc Jacobs and Rei Kawakubo of Commes des Garçons. There was even speculation about her authenticity. How did an 11-year-old bespectacled kid know that Kate Bush's Hounds of Love and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie & Clyde were fashion insider's favourites? The fact that she writes from an intellectual, self-deprecating perspective rather than that of the usual daft, gushing, Carrie-Bradshaw-style fashion fanatic also pleased industry die-hards.

If you've ever examined serious fashion scribes, like the International Herald Tribune's Suzy Menkes, you will understand why Gevinson was promoted inwardly as well as upwardly by the rag press. She is the real deal: a genuine precocious talent who can articulate in a way older people can understand whilst telling it like a teenager. Her blog speculates on things that other fashion writers would not dare to touch. For instance, in her latest posting, Gevinson touches on the tricky subject of the late Alexander McQueen's current collection.

"It is now half a year later, and I don't feel any differently," she gushes. "His death is something that I, like many people, still can't believe. It's simply not real to me; I can't wrap my head around it, and I probably never will." Having got the morbid bit out of the way, she goes on. "The fact is, this was the collection Alexander McQueen was in the process of creating before he killed himself." Eek. Then comes the really juicy bit. "As always, you look at it and just think about how amazing it is that a human made this."

You see? A perfect balance of professional opinion and insider observation with sensationalist rant. Dazed and Confused digital magazine picked up on Gevinson's recent talk in Toronto about that Sassy magazine reference and has managed to extract from her what a future magazine edited by her might be like. "It would be subversive just in that it would be honest and tell teenage girls that, like, our opinions matter and to be ourselves and stuff. Other magazines, I feel, don't succeed in doing that."

The combo of Gevinson and a major publishing house is interesting. I'd even stick my neck out and hazard a guess that it's imminent.