Tavi's Love Letter to Lula

Style Rookie's Tavi Gevinson On Meeting Her Mentor in Editor Leith Clark

My Lula magazine collection sits on a shelf in my room away from all my other magazines. They exist in a nostalgia-tinted continuum next to boxes of baby teeth, masks a friend got me when she went away on vacation, and glitter I once played dress-up with. The people featured in Lula are there to be celebrated rather than to promote a product, and the normally recognizable designer clothing is styled to appear one-of-a-kind. Lula manages to feel disconnected from the rest of the world, but does not seem an exclusive society. Instead, it invites excitement, wonder and creativity. I wanted to keep that dream real. The idea of talking to Leith Clark, Lula's editor-in-chief and founder, felt like I would be learning too much. But it ended up being the most ideal manifestation of all the excitement and wonder and creativity Lula has inspired in me over the years, because I got to share with the person responsible for it all in the first place. It all happened in a rather Lula-esque way, too. We had pastries and tea, posed for photographer Jessica Craig Martin, and talked for an hour and a half from two fluffy marshmallow beds at the Pierre hotel in New York. It was the ultimate Letter to the Editor. And because I couldn't help myself, it was actually more of a Love Letter to the Editor.

Tavi talks to Leith Clark

Tavi: For my blog, I never cared if people liked the same things as me, but now I have to think about that more [Tavi has just launched RookieMag.com]. Lula is so personal to you, but have you had to shape it to your reader?

Leith: No, and I don't think you should either. The first issue we did was almost by accident. I thought, “I'm going to make my dream magazine, and when I'm 80 I'll show it to my grandkids and say, ‘Look, I made this,’” I didn’t even think about other people seeing it… And distribution is at about 121,000 copies now.

Tavi: I love looking back on the first issue I bought of Lula, and remembering where I was in my life then.

Leith: Which one was the first that you read?

Tavi: The witchy one with Ali Michael on the cover [September 2008]…my friend sent it to me. Then I found it at the local bookstore and I was like, “No one here [in the Chicago suburbs] reads this. Do they?” So I left a note in one of the copies.

Leith: You wrote a note and left it in the store?

Tavi: Yes, because I didn’t think other people in my town read it. It felt like a secret.

Leith: What did you write in the note?

Tavi: Something simple like, “If you buy this copy write to me.” I mean, we just emailed but never actually met. I think she goes to my school, but I didn’t want to be creepy.

Leith: Why did you start your blog?

Tavi: It was before bloggers were sitting front row, when the only people who read fashion blogs were other people with fashion blogs. Susie Bubble was my hero. I wanted to be a part of that community. I was in middle school, hated it. I was not a very social person. I would go home and make something, read or watch movies and I wanted a new outlet.

Leith: So you used it to externalize?

Tavi: Yeah. I’ve tried doing the blogger-reporting-at-fashion-week-thing, but it doesn’t work for me. I like relating a collection to something personal… For a while I couldn’t figure out why I felt so compelled to record so many things, be so nostalgic and have it all in one place.

Leith: You’re nostalgic for things you didn’t experience, which is interesting. I read Sassy magazine. I was the right age when it came out. It’s interesting that you want to read it now.

Tavi: It’s the same with the music that I like. I can’t really figure that out either. If you go on Tumblr, it feels like half of the internet consists of teenagers wishing they were alive in the 60s. And one thing that I’m writing about for Rookie is about why the 21st century isn’t that bad. It’s like, “We have Miranda July you guys!"

Read commentary from Tavi and Leith on cult 80s teen movies and their remakes here, or visit Style Rookie for the extended interview. 

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