I learned last night that when you get Iris Apfel and Ira Glass in the same room, good things happen. The party co-hosted by Tavi Gevinson and Ari Seth Cohen, the man behind the old-people-with-a-mad-knack-for-dressing-up blog Advanced Style, is the most fun fashion party I've been to in a while. There were home-made cardboard bangles being given away on trays, and the whole room sang "Happy Birthday" to a woman born in 1912. There was cake. Which people actually ate! And there were so many people who were dressed to the nines. Not because they were editors who were showing off their four-figure freebies from Luxury Brand X, not because they were bloggers who'd triangulated this season's trends in search of some lens attention from Tommy Ton or Scott Schuman — but because their clothing represented something essential about themselves, something they were choosing to highlight. I looked around the room, and I saw women who looked like individuals. Who'd excavated their finery from the backs of closets. Who wanted to wear a turban or a gold-threaded brocade suit because dammit, it looked good on them. Fashion is so often made to be about fitting in, and here were people who wanted to stand out. It was strangely heartening.
Gevinson was mobbed pretty much the whole time, but I did manage to talk to her for a few minutes. Given the event was about age and fashion, I thought I'd ask her thoughts about one idea that's been finding some support recently: the push to restrict runway work in New York City to models who are over age 16.
"I think it makes sense that it should be 16 as a starting age," Gevinson, who was wearing a pink tiara with a picture of Laura Palmer where a jewel might be, replied. "That may be somewhat hypocritical for me to say, but I think there's a big difference between sitting and watching a fashion show and working in one. I mean, I'm a blogger. I'm my own boss, you know? And I can imagine how hard it might be to be a young girl in that industry." Having an age standard would be good "just for the influence. They're setting a beauty standard that's going to affect women all over the world."
Paris fashion week already has 16 as a minimum age, and makes it a hard rule. And while the Council of Fashion Designers of America has long included a suggestion that runway models be at least 16 in its list of guidelines for designer members, this season the CFDA added the suggestion that casting directors check models' IDs. The regulation is still entirely voluntary, and, frankly, fashion week is only one fortnight out of the year — most models still begin their careers around age 13-14, which is frankly too young to be managing the responsibilities of a full-time career, especially one that can prove so noxious to traditional schooling. Not to mention a job that takes place in an industry that has a noted inability to police the behavior of its most powerful members. Actually stopping girls under 16 from working fashion week seems like the very least that could be done to improve models' health and safety in the workplace.
I asked Gevinson whether she felt any special affinity for models, given she is 15, and that people have often told her that she hasn't the right to be doing what she's doing because of factors outside of her control, like age. "I do think that people assume that because you're a model you must be vapid or stupid," she said. "And that's really not true — or at least, it's a bad generalization. The modeling industry doesn't exactly encourage these girls to show that they're smart, or to get educated. I think that's the real problem."
With that, I had to go. And so did Gevinson. She had to finish a paper for school.