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STYLE & CULTURE | SOCIAL CLIMES

Call it teenseltown

September 14, 2003|Gina Piccalo | Times Staff Writer

From a distance, the candlelit party looked like any other Friday night among the young and hip in Beverly Hills -- lithe silhouettes posed on white furniture around the lighted pool of yet another refurbished midcentury modern home while a DJ played retro hits.

But a closer look revealed a scene far less familiar. While the usual air of self-consciousness permeated the place, surgical enhancements and sarcasm were in short supply. Actresses lied about their ages, but to make themselves older. And stranger still, most guests seemed genuinely happy to see one another.

This was Teen Vogue's first Hollywood party held Sept. 5 to fete the celebrities of the adolescent set, many of whom are featured in its October-November issue.

The magazine, which launched last spring, was inspired by Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour's teenage daughter, Bea. Most teen mags, Bea told her mom, were boy crazy, not fashion savvy.

And so, after two years of test marketing, the purse-sized glossy arrived. Aside from the feature stories ("Why Girls Are Getting Drunker Than Guys"), the book is sophisticated enough to appeal to women in their 20s and 30s. It includes the same designer ads of its adult counterpart yet with affordable fashions and beauty products.

For big-name designers like Christian Dior and Armani Exchange, Teen Vogue creates "an opportunity to cultivate the future," says the magazine's vice president and publisher, Gina Sanders. In other words, it opened a beeline to the youth market and a chance at building street cred, a godsend for any label. "The kiss of death," says Editor in Chief Amy Astley, "is if you only appeal to middle-aged women and up."

Fortunately, this night, middle-aged women stayed away, leaving room for flocks of teen girls in full makeup, bangles, striped Spandex and ruffled miniskirts. Their male counterparts wore vintage (read: from the '80s) T-shirts and studied nonchalance. They chatted up the few adults in attendance with startling sophistication.

Britney Spears' little sister Jamie Lynn and Sarah Ramos, both 12, stood outside waiting for actor Shia La Beouf, 17, plotting their opening line. They indulged a reporter who said Spears looked familiar. "I get that a lot," she said, blithely, throwing her blond hair off her shoulder.

Inside, 14-year-old actress Caitlin Wachs talked with Xander Smith of the band Run Run Run. "Isn't that a Velvet Underground song?" she said of the band name. "I love Lou Reed."

Back outside, just as Sean Lennon darted past a pack of barking photographers, party coordinator Bryan Rabin ran a hand through his platinum hair, took a drag off his cigarette and said, "These kids intimidate me."

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