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The young style icons who call the shots in fashion

The world has gone mad. Well, it's either that, or I have genuinely started taking advice from a 16-year-old girl. With no shortage of magazines aimed at grown-up women like me, even I'm surprised to find myself drawn into Rookie magazine and the teenage world of 16-year-old Tavi Gevinson.

Updated three times a day (after school, after dinner and before bedtime), the online teen magazine (www.rookiemag.com) covers every topic of girldom under the sun, from how to survive platonic crushes and 'postponing reality' to perfecting a two-minute beehive (I'm not ashamed to admit that this video tutorial was pretty life-changing.

Or at the very least, affords me 10 extra minutes' lie-in).

In terms of coolness, Rookie puts Just Seventeen in the ha-penny place, and More magazine's 'Position Of The Fortnight' seems weirdly quaint by comparison.

Even in my 30s, I'm an avid reader, bizarrely hooked on a group of high-schoolers telling it like it is. Among my favourite section of the magazine is 'Ask A Grown Man', in which a number of celebs such as actor Paul Rudd dispense boy advice to its teenage readership. Yet, amid the hipster-heavy and heart-warming message on Rookie, lies the rumblings of a brand new 'girl power' revolution.


Tavi and her teenage friends are arguably the voice of a generation ... and a confused one at that.

Everyone worries about teenagers, and rightly so. Depending on where you look, stories abound of online bullying, teens self-harming and body dysmorphia. We are constantly being reminded of the grim statistic that hints that more teenagers want to be WAGs or reality-TV stars than doctors or teachers. There are beauty products invented to correct every perceived physical 'flaw' ... and, what's worse, they are flying off the shelves. Decent role models appear worryingly thin on the ground. Never mind the fact that Rihanna's thought to be keen on a reconciliation with Chris Brown ... the man who famously assaulted her two years ago.

Kim Kardashian is building a multi-million dollar empire on a sex tape and a 72-hour marriage. The stars of The Only Way Is Essex only seem to get out of bed to worry about their cellulite and dental veneers. Even Mad Men star Jon Hamm was moved to comment: "Whether it's Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian or whoever, stupidity is certainly celebrated. Being (an) idiot is a valuable commodity in this culture because you're rewarded significantly."

Sure, we have the feisty likes of Lady Gaga, who extol the virtues of marching to your own beat ... but how seriously can you take a woman who wears a potato masher as a hair accessory?

Gaga herself has called Rookie's editor Tavi Gevinson "the future of journalism", and not without good reason. Her Rookie fashion blog was initially dismissed as a fake, because it was seen as too professional to be the handiwork of a preteen. A self-confessed "tiny dork", she made for a curious and precocious spectacle on the front row of New York Fashion Week at 12 years old.

At 13, she commanded the sort of style-maven reputation that took Anna Wintour whole decades to achieve.

Initially, her parents didn't know what Tavi was doing until she asked for their permission to appear in a New York Times story. In August '09, the sassy teen then appeared on the Damien Hirst-designed cover of Pop magazine. Her Bat Mitzvah speech was suitably beyond her tender years: "Over this past year I have become increasingly interested in clothing, and have developed a clearer understanding of the idea that clothing can be art. Using fashion as self-expression can go beyond wearing a shirt with a slogan, as clothing has the ability to evoke an entire feel, or atmosphere, or emotion, or world."

No wonder Gaga is in thrall.


By rights, Tavi should have turned into a vain brat after being feted by the fashion gods ... or at least could have gone the way of Lindsay by 'Livin' La Vida Lohan'. Instead, Rookie proves her to be a funny, unpretentious feminist.

"One thing that can be very alienating is that girls then think that to be feminists they have to live up to being perfectly consistent in their beliefs, never being insecure, never having doubts, having all the answers ... And this is not true," said Tavi at a recent teen conference.

"And actually recognising all the contradictions I was feeling became easier once I realised that feminism was not a rulebook but a discussion, a conversation, a process."

So look past the Kardashians and the reality totty and you'll find plenty of great teen role models like Tavi just below the surface.

Gevinson isn't even the only power player in fashion that needs to still do her homework.

There's 18-year-old Kristin Prim, for a start. Prim founded Prim magazine at the age of 14 and has been bestowed with the title of Vogueista by the fashion bible.

Elsewhere, Cecilia Cassini (11) is gaining ground as a 'kiddie couturier' with smarts.

She cut up clothes as a five-year-old, got her first sewing machine at the age of six, and now dresses the likes of Miley Cyrus and Twilight's Ashley Greene.

Her USP, according to online bloggers, is her 'highbrow fashion and couture mentality'.

Happily, we're not doing too badly on the role-model front closer to home. Saoirse Ronan is an easy-going yet coolly elegant presence on the red carpet.


Again, Ronan has every right to be a precocious kidult, but instead is bewilderingly age-appropriate.

No attention-seeking shenanigans for this 18-year-old, who is known more for her charity work and film roles than her extra-curricular activities.

Her private life is strictly off the table, where it should be: "I mean, I have boys who are friends, but not a boyfriend as such," she is quoted as saying.

"I focus on my work. The stuff that comes afterward -- the press and premieres -- it's fine, it's fun... but what I really want to do is work on my acting."

Likewise, actress Sarah Bolger, now 21, rarely ventured off-piste into silly schoolgirl territory during her tenure on The Tudors ... though as a teen star playing Jonathan Rhys-Meyers' wife, she had every right to.

Last year, she revealed: "On Sundays, I'm a minister of the Eucharist at (a) church in Rathfarnham.

"I became a minister of the Eucharist when I was 17. My parents aren't very strict Catholics, but for some reason I decided this is what I want to do, and I have kept it up.

"My mum kept saying, 'Sarah, no one is going to go to your queue if you are the girl who is in the papers'. But I liked the idea. I have blessed hands. I got my hands blessed by the priest and I am able to give out Holy Communion at Mass. It is lovely to be part of it."

Kim Kardashian, this ain't. Maybe the kids are alright after all.