Not everyone thought it was adorable in September when a 13-year-old wunderkind blogger named Tavi was given a front-row seat at the fashion shows of Marc Jacobs, Rodarte and others.
Oh now, don’t misunderstand. She was totally adorable. You could have gobbled her up, with her goofy spark plug style — a Peggy Guggenheim for the Tweeting tween set. Her feet, in designer stockings, did not quite touch the ground. Within a matter of months, Tavi Gevinson, the author of a blog called Style Rookie, was feted by designers, filming promotions for Target, flown to Tokyo for a party with the label Comme des Garcons and writing a review of the collections for no less than Harper’s Bazaar. Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the designers of Rodarte, described her in the pages of Teen Vogue as “curious and discerning.”
Rather, it was what the arrival of Tavi, as a blogger, represented that ruffled feathers among the fashion elite. Anne Slowey, who has spent decades climbing the editorial ladder to a senior position at Elle, dismissed the teenager’s column as “a bit gimmicky” in an interview with New York magazine. And in an instant, the subtext in her complaint was read by dozens of Tavi’s fans as an example of the tension between old media and new, when one leapfrogs ahead of the other.
As a relatively new phenomenon in the crowded arena of journalists whose specialty it is to report the news of the catwalks, fashion bloggers have ascended from the nosebleed seats to the front row with such alacrity that a long-held social code among editors, one that prizes position and experience above outward displays of ambition or enjoyment, has practically been obliterated. After all, what is one to think — besides publicity stunt — when Bryan Boy, a pseudonymous, style-obsessed blogger from the Philippines, is seated at the D&G show in Milan between the august front-row fixtures of Vogue and Vanity Fair, a mere two positions to the right of Anna Wintour?
“There has been a complete change this year,” said Kelly Cutrone, who has been organizing fashion shows since 1987. “Do I think, as a publicist, that I now have to have my eye on some kid who’s writing a blog in Oklahoma as much as I do on an editor from Vogue? Absolutely. Because once they write something on the Internet, it’s never coming down. And it’s the first thing a designer is going to see.”
Perhaps it was to be expected that the communications revolution would affect the makeup of the fashion news media in much the same way it has changed the broader news media landscape. At a time when magazines like Vogue, W, Glamour and Bazaar have pared their staffs and undergone deep cutbacks because of the impact of the recession on their advertising sales, blogs have made remarkable strides in gaining both readership and higher profiles. At the shows this year, there were more seats reserved for editors from Fashionista, Fashionologie, Fashiontoast, Fashionair and others, and fewer for reporters from regional newspapers that can no longer afford the expense of covering the runways independently.
But it is somewhat surprising that designers are adjusting to the new breed of online reporter more readily than magazines, which have been slow to adapt to the demand for instant content about all things fashion. Blogs are posting images and reviews of collections before the last model exits the runway, while magazine editors are still jockeying to feature those clothes in issues that will be published months later.