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Catching up with three Rookie-era teenage fashion bloggers

We spoke to Ellie Connor-Phillips, Hollie Williamson and Rosie Leizrowice about their experiences in a precious moment in 00s fashion media

When Tavi Gevinson closed her must-read online magazine Rookie last November after seven years, Petra Collins, Hunter Schafer and Polyester founder Ione Gamble were among the many leading creative voices who mourned its departure. Rookie influenced an entire generation, helping teenage girls to appreciate that their voices matter, and inspiring them to create their own blogs, zines and websites.

For former teen bloggers Ellie Connor-Phillips, Rosie Leizrowice and Hollie Williamson, the end of Rookie marked the end of their adolescence. Their blogs – all now abandoned – were heavily influenced by Gevinson, and caught the attention of mainstream media when Blogspot blogs had their moment between 2008 and 2013. Gevinson’s own Style Rookie famously got her invited to New York Fashion Week at the age of 12.  

"I did it for fun, and it was very unfiltered," says Leizrowice. With Connor-Phillips and Williamson, she was part of a DIY collective that represented a new generation of young people publicly experimenting with style, subculture and the pains of growing up. Each blog was known for its unrefined aesthetic, which was markedly different from the heavily curated Instagram feeds of teens today. Williamson says that teenagers today are “scared to be vulnerable and express themselves creatively online because Instagram as a medium calls for perfect content.” Views and followers were only a small part of it back then – more important was the ability to experiment and find a niche. These style bloggers were not interested in turning blogging into a career or becoming influencers.

Once Instagram took off, most Rookie-inspired blogs stopped publishing content. Media for young people has shifted. Teen style bloggers existed in a brief moment in time that will not happen again. To commemorate the era, we caught up with Connor-Phillips, Williamson and Leizrowice about blogging, Rookie, fashion, teen media and what they are working on now.

ELLIE CONNOR-PHILLIPS

Former teen blogger, editor of 5.18 Mag and Menswear student

What was the impact of your generation of style bloggers?

Ellie Connor-Phillips: We showed that people of all ages and education levels can have a voice about fashion and about the world. That generation of blogging definitely made people take others more seriously. If you've got passion, then you’re respected a bit more. However, I don’t think we changed blogging, because our generation of style bloggers died out. I haven't really seen a new gen. We had a moment in the spotlight. It's like the Blitz club in the 80s. That's not happened again.

How did you feel about being called ‘the new Tavis’?

Ellie Connor-Phillips: It gave us an identity as a group and as a movement. It was a very positive movement to be involved in. We were all linked at the time. Our collection of bloggers was body-image inclusive. There were bloggers of all sizes and shapes. The first people I was exposed to who were openly gay or bisexual were teen bloggers.

Would you be doing what you are doing now if you had never started your blog?

Ellie Connor-Phillips: I don’t think so. Having a blog made me feel successful. It introduced me to all the other teen bloggers at the time. Having a blog made me remember to be more authentically myself, despite others not liking it or being the same.

Do you think the spirit of Rookie lives on?

Ellie Connor-Phillips: The opinions and energies of our generation lives on. We’re tackling things like trans inclusivity, and making sure that all genders are accepted. I think that does stem from riot grrrl feminism, even though it was originally not that intersectional. For me, understanding feminism started with accepting my body, and that we don't have to shave our armpits. It sounds silly, but that opened my eyes to other bigger issues. Everyone who read Rookie has changed to become a more open person. In that way, the spirit continues.

HOLLIE WILLIAMSON

Former teen blogger, stylist and Fashion Media Practice & Criticism student

Your blog and others like it helped to change society’s perception of teenagers. How do you think teen media has changed this decade?

Hollie Williamson: Teen Vogue is really progressive at the moment compared to the magazines we used to have like Mizz and Sugar. The tone is completely different. The internet has impacted the way cultural intermediaries communicate with young people. Young people are a lot savvier now. The speed of communication has changed.

Many blogs have become defunct with the rise of Instagram. How do you think Instagram has changed the market for teen creators?

Hollie Williamson: We were lucky that we grew up in a transitional period for the internet. We could experiment with analogue and DIY aesthetics and indulge in making zines, swapping care packages, pen-palling and journaling. Whereas now, everything shared online is a lot more polished and considered. Longer form platforms don’t seem to be in use as much anymore. What we were doing could be seen as quite cringe-y, juvenile and stupid to teenagers nowadays because of the more refined content they’re accustomed to seeing online.

How did you feel about being called ‘the new Tavis’?

Hollie Williamson: I found it really annoying. Even though, looking back, I was so influenced by that. I get why we were grouped together. There was a small, like-minded community of us who would all read each other’s blogs, so it felt very interactive and non-judgmental. I’d go so far as to say we shared a sort of subcultural kinship – bonded by interests that people in real life didn’t tend to be so familiar with.

Do you think the spirit of Rookie lives on?

Hollie Williamson: Yeah, it’s mad. I’ll go on a night out and people will come up to me and say they used to read my blog. We’re in the same scene. So many of us are still in touch.

ROSIE LEIZROWICE

Former teen blogger and writer

The internet has changed a lot this decade. If you were 13 again now, what would you do differently?

Rosie Leizrowice: I don't know if I would even get into blogging now. It used to feel so accessible and it was unusual for someone young to have a blog, but now it's not that weird. It was a novelty then, which meant you got a lot of support and encouragement from people. I started my blog before I had any social media. I was doing it for the fun, not for the likes. Now, I would probably end up starting on Instagram and not enjoying it as much and then not getting into the writing side.

What was the impact of your generation of style bloggers?

Rosie Leizrowice: It helped make fashion feel like something you could get involved with. Even now, the influencers are not necessarily people who are really in the high fashion world. There was that whole time when people thought blogs were going to destroy magazines. Now, they're overlapping more and more. It's not blogs versus magazines. Magazines are copying the bloggers, not the other way around.

Would you be writing professionally now if you hadn’t started blogging?

Rosie Leizrowice: I got my current job and every job I've had through my blog. Every job I've had, I haven't actually applied for it. I’ve got offers. It's all grown out of blogging and I'm very glad I did it.

Do you think the spirit of Rookie lives on?

Rosie Leizrowice: I miss Rookie. The last few years I hadn't read it that often, but I used to read every article they ever did. I miss that. What they did had a huge influence on me personally and I imagine on a hell of a lot of other people. They nurtured a whole generation.