The New Tavi

08.02.12

Meet Ophelia Horton, London’s 12-Year-Old Fashion Blogger: The New Tavi?

She writes about music exams and Miu Miu. She worships Prada and TopShop—but she's just 12 years old. Meet Britain’s new fashion sensation. By Tom Sykes.

It’s hard not to be entertained by a recent entry on British fashion blogger Ophelia Horton’s fledgling fashion blog, Who's That Girl?

“What is not to love about the French Revolution?” she writes. “No, seriously, what is not to love? Except for the whole cutting-heads-off-thing, and the battles and the deaths and everything. Just everything to do with the Revolution is cool: ‘The Red Necklace’ and ‘The Silver Blade’ books, by Sally Gardener are probably my favorite books EVER—amazing and engrossing. Then there’s those vintage-looking dresses (like the one below, from Topshop) that have, what I call, ‘revolutionary print’ on them, in a victorious royal blue…”

And with that she’s off, into another 1,000 sassy (if somewhat hastily written and un-spellchecked) words, artfully panning the swamp of modern culture for grains of revolutionary symbolism, in the process taking in everything from Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette in Manolo Blahniks to an Annie Leibovitz shoot for Vogue dating from 2006.

That you can stumble across a relatively unknown blogger who is writing unpaid and original copy with more verve and conviction than you’ll find in an average fashion glossy is far from surprising in the Internet age. But what is truly remarkable about Ophelia is that, despite having a dedicated fan base and having attracted almost 50,000 unique users to her wordpress blog since she created it 18 months ago, she is just 12.

That’s right, 12.

During the school year, Horton, who lives in South London, writes her blog after doing her homework and dance class. But now she is on summer vacation, and has more time to spend shooting models and writing pieces for her blog (when she’s not out busking with her sister in London’s Camden Market to augment her fashion fund, that is).

When I catch up with Horton, she’s at home in South London, and things are a bit hectic as she is off to Spain the next day on a family holiday. Her Mom is a professional jazz singer and freelance vocal coach and her Dad is a visual effects supervisor and producer for feature films (he supervised the visual effects for 'The King's Speech').

In conversation, you forget Horton is 12 pretty fast, as she tells you with all the conviction of a seasoned fashion observer how “engaging” she found the Armani and Prada collections this year, and why she is “smitten” with the “awesome” Dsquared Fall/Winter 2012–13 campaign.

Horton started her blog in April 2011: “I wanted to channel my love for fashion into something that was recordable,” she says. “And at the time I was really obsessed with Top Shop. Obviously I can’t afford to buy all this stuff in Top Shop, so the main reason for my blog at that point in time was basically so I could just download all the things I couldn’t have.”

“I would post, ‘This is a cool dress, you could wear it with this and this and it is in because of this trend.’

“At first I would just talk about trends, but as I got more interested in fashion, I got more interested in the personal style side of things and I am not that into trends anymore. Everything moves so fast now, I don’t really bother keeping up with trends anymore. Like if someone said, ‘Denim is in!’ I wouldn’t wear more denim than I usually do. I just wear what I like.”

Horton frequently dresses up and posts pictures of herself on the blog. In a typical post, she wears a crazy-looking pinafore with an outrageous collar, round-frame shades, and thick, woolly knee socks. The pinafore is actualy her old school uniform, the collar, inspired by Miu-Miu, is chopped off another shirt and stuck on with glue.

In another set of pictures, she demonstrates three different ways of wearing her, “Lovely- juvely Louise Gray NEWGEN tee shirt: it is the most gorgeous thing ever {FACT} and with it’s metallic baby pink/mint green/rose red eccentric skeleton-like print, it’s the hottest thing for miles around.”

Instead of calling in designer clothes or taking pricey gifts, Horton simply asks people she thinks are cool to pose for pictures.

“Sometimes I ask my sister’s friends, ‘Do you want to model?’ and then we find a location and I always borrow an SLR camera because I actually don’t have one myself. I just use my own clothes or I ask them to bring their own clothes. I usually only ask the really trendy friends because then they can bring their own clothes.”

Are all her friends into fashion?

“Most of my friends say they are into fashion but in fact they don’t really wear much except for Hollister and Abercrombie and stuff like that,” she says. “But everyone has their own style, so, like, I have to accept that. If that is how they want to present themselves, if that is all they want to wear, then that is totally their choice.  And being all crazy may not be for them.” She continues: “I have one friend who is into fashion, who is into the same type of fashion as me, who has her personal style and doesn’t care what other people think,” says Ophelia, before adding, pointedly, “And we are both feminists.”

I ask her what she thought of the recent story on The Daily Beast about how Teen Vogue is coming under pressure to have more realistic role models in its pages for the kids who read it.

“I totally agree with that,” Horton says. “It is not great to be setting up false idols for girls. I mean, people who read magazines are not going to be like all these airbrushed figures, and it just sets expectations and people think, ‘Oh, my gosh, I should be like this person in the magazine.’ Magazines can be very, ‘Get your body into shape for summer!’ and talk about how you can impress this person and how you can impress that person. And I think it has quite a negative effect. It doesn’t really empower girls in any way.

“Kids today have so much more of a voice than they did a while back. We have feminism now, and that is something that has grown quite rapidly throughout teenage girls and I think it is really important to be a part of that. I just think it is quite important to change things that are going to have a bad impact in the future.”

It all sounds very grown-up, but one of the things I really like about Ophelia’s blog is that she doesn’t try to hide from her readers the fact she is a schoolkid:

“It’s been one of the busiest weeks ever—one day I got back from school at 9:15pm. I mean, are you serious?! Sports day and music concert. Doesn’t mix.”

But what tips would established fashion writers give Ophelia?

Maureen Callahan, a New York City-–based fashion writer who is currently working on a book about fashion and the ’90s for Simon & Schuster is not so sure about the advisability of including details of her schooldays:

“She definitely has an eye, though her images are stronger than her words, and when it comes to both words and fashion, editing ruthlessly is invaluable. Not every thought she has needs to be expressed. Such as: ‘I had my music theory exam on one day and my grade 5 flute on the next day. We’ve had the school literary evening and my poor sister’s had her piano grade 6 music exam and her tap dance grade 7 exam this week.’ I’d encourage Ophelia to ask herself: Will anyone care?”

“But, Ophelia does have a cute following of self-reinforcing eccentrics. They’re all adorable and far better put-together than any 12-year-old who came of age before the Internet.

“As to whether it’s ridiculous for 12-year-olds to be seated front-row at fashion shows: of course it is! And so what? It’s fashion!”