The rise of fashion’s Tumblr generation | Wender Mind Kids

The rise of fashion's Tumblr generation

Front row (from left): Ethan James Green (photographer and director), Martine Gutierrez (artist), Peter Goldberg (archivist), Christopher Barnard (author), Marcus Cuffie (stylist), Fernando Cerezo (artist), Stevie Triano (office clerk), and Marcs Goldberg (artistic director ). Back row: Iris Diane Palma (artist), Chuy Medina (studio manager and photographer), Dara Allen (fashion director and model), Devan Díaz (author), Sonny Molina (hair artist) and Cruz Valdez (photographer).
Photo: Luke Michael

The children of fashion Tumblr, as fashionistas often do, came to New York from the less fashionable provinces: San Jose and Grand Rapids and Baltimore and Orange County and Jersey Shore. Growing up far from the industry enclaves, they were obsessed with Balenciaga ads and Fashion Italy Online scans, followed the zeal of outsiders and found their like-minded zealots to befriend. A decade later, they all live in New York and remain friends. They meet and celebrate together, and now that they’ve made it from the digital outside world to the inside of the industry, they’re collaborating too. “When I first met all the dolls, it became clear that this was a tight-knit group of ride-or-dies,” says artist Martine Gutierrez, who met her crew in town after meeting up candy Magazine shoot in 2016 and was there quickly.

They’ve come a long way since they were fashion-obsessed teenagers on Tumblr, the image-centric blogging platform, in the 2010s. Fluent in technology who control their own means of image production, distribution, and promotion: the factory girls without the need for a Warhol, the Halstonettes if they dispensed with Halston, the unholy love children of Cleveland (Pat, not Ohio) and Vreeland . You’ve internalized Polly Mellen, who raves about “zero gravity, pom-pom, powder puff”. fake furs in unpacked and Donatella Versace, who appeared in a Fashion Video interview (“What are you reading now?”, “Magazines!”). They live to be behind and in front of the camera.

With no fashion school—in some cases even no high school diploma, let alone college—they educated themselves in chapter and verse of the industry, its history and archives, and its lingua franca. Their styles were cooked in Tumblr’s mix-and-match crucible, and the most devoted could spend five or six hours a day on the platform, posting and commenting. “After midnight, it was time to be there,” says Devan Díaz, an author who moved to New York from Tennessee when she was 18 and started her Tumblr in 2009.”

“If I hadn’t had Tumblr, I would never have gotten into fashion,” says Marcus Cuffie, a stylist whose Tumblr, Dustulator (the name of one of Rick Owens’ favorite collections), which began in 2011, has become a touchstone for many fellow bloggers. “I wouldn’t have known how to access it.”

“I think we wanted to know why we like the things we like,” Hari Nef, who moved to New York from Massachusetts to attend Columbia University and shortly before arriving in the summer of 2011, tells Tumblr came. “We wanted to draw a line through the past to find out where it came from. Together we were able to thread this needle and string it together. It was about information, and it was about discovery—discovery that you couldn’t achieve without community.” Reblogs and comments led to chats and calls, and a circle began to form.

All the research paid off. Nef has been doing internships at cool fashion houses like VFiles, although she’s now better known as an actress; She spent this spring shooting them Barbie Movie. (She deleted her Tumblr before her first film came out in 2018.) Cuffie now styles for Harper’s Bazaar, dazed, and a grab bag of indie mags. Cruz Valdez, who became Cuffie’s partner and now collaborator, is a photographer who shoots for Marc Jacobs, Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty and Eckhaus Latta. “These kids knows things,” says Mel Ottenberg, editor-in-chief of interview, who hired one of them, Dara Allen, known professionally as Dara (Tumblr born 2011), as the magazine’s fashion director this February. “You really need to study.”

For younger millennials and all of Gen Z, making friends online is just like making friends. But eventually this crew realized that if you want to achieve something, you have to meet in real life. Her Tumblr friends were her support system, and they flocked to the city to live, work, and play together. “I’ve always wanted to come to New York, but I don’t think I would have,” says Allen. But egged on by Californians Valdez and Iris Diane Palma, an artist, she (in tears) bought a ticket with them and moved to a flop in Bushwick. (Stevie Triano, another Tumblr friend, and Cuffie picked up the keys and met her there the day they arrived.) Valdez, who attended photography school, took her first shots at their shared Brooklyn apartment with a seamless background created by belted to her futon with Allen, who appeared in two Marc Jacobs shows before eventually signing with a modeling agency, as her subject.

In New York, they met other Tumblrites, including Nef and Cuffie. “It really felt like we were all destined to find each other,” Nef told me. “The word manifest was very popular at the time. And we felt that we did. Obsession alone wasn’t enough for me, nor was it enough for Dara or Cruz or Marcus or Devan or any of us. It would have just been a waste for us to do anything other than use all the hours we’ve spent searching and listening and writing and sharing and not trying to do something with them.

They eventually befriended Ethan James Green, a model-turned-photographer, and the circle widened. Green was a more casual Tumblr user whose runway career was cataloged on Tumblr – most detailed of all on her blog. His photography career faltered until, inspired by his mentor David Armstrong, he began shooting black and white portraits of friends and future friends, including everyone depicted here, many of whom appear in his first book. Young New York. “All these big fashion people that I’ve been with for years suddenly said, ‘Oh!‘ — it turned something on,” says Green. “People started asking me to take my pictures. And because I could really create my world, I didn’t have to make any compromises.” Now he shoots up Fashion and WLouis Vuitton campaigns and has just completed his first solo show at Fotografiska.

Now they’re members of the next generation of fashion and they’re landing big jobs. Green often works with Allen. Allen often works with Valdez. Valdez often works with Cuffie, who is also her partner. Her friends help out with shoots or do the hair or set up the sets. Her work has graced billboards across Soho for Calvin Klein; They are booked by Bottega Veneta and Alexander McQueen. The line between work and life can be fluid. They don’t always work together, but they get along better when they do. “We all see it for each other. Our Grindr profile would be Muse 4 Muse,” says Gutierrez. “I bring friends into projects all the time, especially when there’s a budget.”

“There’s definitely a common language,” says Marcs Goldberg, an art director who designs sets for photo shoots. “It’s very similar to a sibling relationship, where it can be very intense and extreme, but in the end it’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.”

They have come into their own individually and collectively and have created space for themselves and their taste. Many of them have changed or adopted non-binary identities since they first met on Tumblr. “It opened up so many possibilities,” Valdez told me. “We all had this instinct for something,” says Allen. “I think I realized that it’s really getting easier to just go with your gut — and your friends.” This year, she worked with Green on an ad campaign for Walmart. “To think that someone in Central America sees style from their perspective is really crazy,” says Green proudly.

Now, to hear her, her work isn’t that different from her Tumblr Fit pics. “I think it was all about building and refining,” says Valdez. “When I think about my older work, it’s not that it’s so drastically different in the way it’s done, it’s just more about how I was able to articulate what I wanted to say and how I should say it.” “That was me on Tumblr,” Allen exclaimed as she struck a pose for the camera, turning her wrists outward and clasping her hands on her waist, holding a haute small teapot. Now their Tumblrs are mostly gone — though some still post privately or occasionally — and the platform itself has lost its former glory. The next generation will gather somewhere else.

But if their medium has waned, the message has not. What would you do on your last day on earth? Probably that, they said, sitting for this portrait. There is no “cheese” here. “Everybody says cunt,” Valdez said before the latch snapped shut. “Cunt!” they all roared happily.