In early July, Julia Frakes, a fashion blogger at Paper Magazine, arrived at the Christian Lacroix couture show in Paris with her mother, Jane Alperin. Ms. Frakes wore an $8,000 floral Balenciaga dress from the spring 2008 collection that resembles feminized body armor. She posed for photos with Vogue editor at large André Leon Talley, who struck up a conversation. The next day, Women’s Wear Daily ran item called “Who’s That Girl?”
“I found that whole thing completely hilarious,” recalled Ms. Frakes last week. “I was just trying to find something to wear that day and it was, like, the only dress I can find. The show was during the day, and that was something I would usually wear at night. It was all very haphazard and so not planned.” But it was the start of a fashion and society world fascination with the endearingly awkward 18-year-old. But, still: Who was she?
Ms. Frakes, who wears a ribbon in her strawberry blond hair every day, looks like she could still be in middle school. She speaks excitedly, and then gets suddenly timid as if frightened by the sound of her own voice. She blushes a lot and fidgets with her hands. When the Transom met her, Ms. Frakes’ slender figure looked deceptively grown up; she was dressed in a Dolce & Gabbana tweed coat, Stella McCartney vegan booties, a vegan Lanvin bag–Ms. Frakes went vegan at the age of 16–and a silky violet Alexander Wang dress. She has a slightly proper lilt that slips out when she pronounces her T’s, suggesting a foreign provenance. But Ms. Frakes grew up in Scranton, Pa., and says she is surprised when people ask her about her accent. (She suggested that either her boarding school upbringing or her father, Daniel Frakes, who had a British accent and passed away when she was 7 years old, may be the cause.)
Ms. Frakes comes from a garment background; her mother’s family owned an apparel manufacturing company, Alperin Inc., until 2007. (“They were actually one of the first companies in America to manufacture jeans, not Levi’s, FYI!” she said.) And she has a writerly connection through her late grandfather, James Frakes, a critic for The New York Times Book Review, and an entertainment connection through her uncle, Jonathan Frakes, an actor who played William T. Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In December 2007, Ms. Frakes, then a 17-year-old student at the northeastern Pennsylvania private school Wyoming Seminary, was invited to Paper Magazine‘s offices by founders Kim Hastreiter and David Hershkovits. Ms. Frakes had befriended the editors on Facebook. “She was a fashion enthusiast and wrote like crazy on Facebook. I mean, she knew everything,” recalled Ms. Hastreiter. “When we e-mailed her to come in, we totally didn’t know what to expect and we were like, ‘Oh my God, you are so young!’”
Following that meeting, while still living in Scranton, Ms. Frakes began blogging for Paper‘s Fashion Schmashion blog. In July, Ms. Frakes relocated to New York, renting a two-floor, three-bedroom apartment in Chelsea with a roommate and enrolling at the New School to study art history and journalism, and has continued to write for Paper.
After lunch at Angelica Kitchen, Ms. Frakes had to run over to Otte in the West Village, where she had a store credit. “I have this weird Alice in Wonderland magical nymph thing that I sort of make my whole world about,” Ms. Frakes said, describing her look. “I grew up in the country, on like 30 acres, so I was obviously influenced by that. I love faded florals, crinoline and petticoats.”
Ms. Frakes’ vocabulary is full of phrases that she uses at least once per hour. “Genius.” “Not even remotely.” And “super fantastic!” which she declared as a form of “thank you” to the Otte cashier as she purchased a gray scarf by Sonia Rykiel ($320) with a pink fox printed on it and an Alexander Wang dress ($364) that she didn’t have to try on, because it was the off-white version of the purple one she was already wearing.
“People are always like, ‘oh, her parents pay for it all,’ but actually I pay for a lot of it and some of it are gifts of course,” she said. “I’m actually pretty fiscally-minded when it comes to everything. O.K., maybe not everything. I don’t do the subway.”
Since arriving in New York, Ms. Frakes has met an impressive array of fashion world names–Mr. Talley, Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist, Ruben and Isabel Toledo, Vogue‘s Sally Singer, and Ikram Goldman, who has dressed Michelle Obama. And much like some of the people she holds in high regard, Ms. Frakes said she aspires to be a fashion editor. But for now, she admitted, she hasn’t totally figured out how to react to all the attention surrounding her.
“I basically become redder than a Union Square greenmarket tomato!” she said, describing what happens when someone approaches to pay her a compliment. “I had no idea anyone even noticed me. I’m just like this short little person!”