Wall Street Journal

Tavi Gevinson at Unity Temple in Oak Park

Last evening, Oak Park was treated to a double dose of style when the Frank Lloyd Wright designed landmark Unity Temple played host to wünderkind fashion blogger/online magazine maven Tavi Gevinson.

Being about as far removed from from her demographic as is humanly possible, I was unfamiliar with Ms. Gevinson and her popularity until recently. But the story of her rise to prominence in her field is intriguing.

Four years ago, as a 11 year old Oak Park student, she took it upon herself to start a blog called Style Rookie, mainly commenting on fashion and style from a pre-teen’s perspective but also touching on topics of feminism, relationships, and high school drama. Before long, Tevi’s blog not only amassed a following of like-minded teen and pre-teen girls, but also caught the attention of some prominent fashion designers and editors who invited her to some of the world’s most exclusive runway shows. Tevi’s parents first became aware of her growing popularity when she asked their permission to appear in a New York Times magazine story.

Now 16, Tavi has started a new and wildly successful online magazine aimed primarily at teen girls, Rookie, which is edited by Anaheed Alani, wife of NPR radio personality and host of “This American Life”, Ira Glass. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Tavi and Ira, who has served as one of her mentors, trade tales of mutual admiration. This month alone, besides the Wall Street Journal article, Tavi appears in the current issue of Newsweek and on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

At Thursday’s gathering, Tevi and three other writers from the magazine took turns reading selections from the just released Rookie Yearbook covering topics as diverse as a friend’s death, kindergardeners caught discovering each other’s bodies told from the teacher’s viewpoint, and a hilarious overview of Burl Ives’ acting career. Tavi possesses a poise and self assuredness that’s rare in someone who’s still a high school sophomore. She was dressed fairly conservatively compared to some of her pre-teen outfits, in an subdued orange shirt with hair pulled back and wearing glasses.

It will be interesting to see where her path heads next. After appearances in a Wilco video and rumors of an upcoming feature film role, it’s clear that road may take her well beyond the teen fashion world, though in answer to an audience question regarding her “2-year plan”, Tavi expressed her great satisfaction with what she’s doing with Rookie magazine and didn’t have a vision beyond that.

As a side note, my daughter was originally supposed to join me at the event, but was unable to attend because of last minute work duties. I ran into graphic novelist Chris Ware before the reading and was happy to find that I wasn’t the only male in attendance. Chris, whose latest work, “Building Stories” comes out soon, is giving a presentation next month at Unity Temple.

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