Vogue contributor and children's author Lesley M. M. Blume wrote us today to distance herself from some of her reported comments about 13-year-old writer Tavi Gevinson, whom she thrice called "a novelty."
Blume, in an interview with New York magazine's Amy Odell, appeared to cast aspersions on Tavi Gevinson's success as a freelancer — Gevinson has gained much notoriety through her blog, and has a story in this month's Harper's Bazaar. Her full quote about Gevinson and the Harper's Bazaar piece read:
"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."
So: Tavi Gevinson's success is "crazy," and vaguely "insulting" to "adult women," Gevinson is better suited to "morning shows" than real fashion criticism, and her appeal is solely based on her "novelty" value and usefulness as "a marketing device." Pretty harsh gist for a girl barely into her teens.
In the same story, Elle editor Anne Slowey wondered aloud if Gevinson actually wrote her blog, or her other freelance work. Slowey even compared Gevinson to JT Leroy, the famous teenaged author and novelist, whose existence was later revealed to be a hoax perpetrated by the writer Laura Albert. "She's either a tween savant or she's got a Tavi team," remarked Slowey.
Today, Blume is distancing herself from the remarks she made to New York. In an e-mail — actually, several e-mails to two different Jezebel editors, plus a bonus Facebook message — about the young writer, Blume says she never meant to imply Gevinson was just a novelty, but rather that she was "addressing how an adolescent is likely being used as a marketing device, which is actually a very protective stance on Tavi's behalf. That said, the tenor of the NY Mag piece is not what I would have liked, so I hope to clarify my own stance."
I'm not in any way leading a charge against Tavi. As I emphasized in parts of the interview not published by NY mag, I believe that passion like hers should be appropriately encouraged and celebrated ... yet I also expressed concern that she is being used as a novel marketing gimmick by an industry not exactly known for its positive messages for and treatment of young girls.
I hope that she's being amply guided and protected as her star rises, as 13 is a very vulnerable age, no matter what confidence is projected. I most certainly would never attack a precocious thirteen year old girl, but rather I am skeptical about the industry's response to her. As someone who's covered the business side of the fashion industry, I think it's more than valid to address the marketing aspect of this phenomenon, especially when the welfare of an adolescent is concerned.
I contacted New York for a response, and they declined to comment other than to say that they stand by the story.
Photo of Tavi Gevinson via her blog
Related: Editors Like Tavi But Don't Take Her Fashion Advice Seriously [The Cut]
Style Rookie [Official Site]