NEW YORK — While most teenage girls channel their love of fashion in more pedestrian ways — say, shopping — Erin Ralph has turned her obsession into a full-time job.
As chief executive, editor in chief and scribe of LuxuryFashion.com, the precocious 18-year-old has been running her own Web site for three years. Within its virtual pages, she chronicles everything from fashion trends to celebrity gossip. She unearths emerging labels, raids the closets of celebrities like Eve and David and Victoria Beckham, and slyly refers to Ashton Kutcher as Demi’s “juvie flame.”
“I try to stay very avant-garde and tongue-in-cheek about the fashion and entertainment industry,” explains Ralph.
Yet keeping abreast of the goings-on in the fashion world as well as its up-and-comers has taken its toll on this fresh-faced New Jersey teen, who traded in after-school mall outings and prom night for a flurry of market appointments and late nights at Bungalow 8.
“I had to start homeschooling because high school was interfering with different events and meetings I had to be at,” says Ralph. “It was like, ‘Do I want to go to school and do that whole thing? Or try and capture this right now and see where I can go with it?’”
With her long blonde hair, skinny build and flouncy miniskirt, Ralph looks more like a Hilton sister than a junior executive. Her fashion savvy is certainly more adventurous than your average teenage American Eagle shopper. She prefers young renegade labels like Fevered Deviant and Hysteric Glamour for her daytime ensembles.
“For night looks, I try to stick with more of the big designers, like Gucci and Chanel,” says Ralph. She “adores” Kate Moss’ knack for mixing vintage with designer pieces and counts Barneys New York and Henri Bendel among her favorite shopping haunts.
“When I was younger, it was all about SoHo and West Broadway,” she says. “Now that I’m older, I kind of mix both tastes, uptown and downtown.”
Ralph, who writes every article on her Web site, began pitching and writing stories for fashion magazines at 13. But having endured the disappointment of killed stories, she decided to post hers online instead. She started building her online profile with a $5-a-year Yahoo site, but after it received too many hits and crashed the server, Ralph knew she had to create a site of her own.
“When I first purchased LuxuryFashion, people told me it would cost $15,000 to $20,000 to design a Web site,” recalls Ralph. “I was a 15-year-old girl, no money in my pocket and a whole bunch of articles. I thought there’s gotta be another way.”
So Ralph hit the books and became, in essence, a Web site designer.
“I locked myself in my room for three months to learn the entire language of computers,” she explains. “That was a pretty weird period of my life.”
Yet, her single-mindedness has paid off. The site has developed a following, with young socialites like Casey Johnson, Nicole Richie and Elizabeth Kieselstein-Cord logging on for fashion insight. Ralph has also lured advertisers like E-luxury, Bluefly, American Express and Eziba.
But she hasn’t chucked the idea of going to college altogether. She’s taking this year off to work on LuxuryFashion and then hopes to apply to NYU and UCLA.
“Down the road, by the time I’m 25, I’d like to have an avant-garde magazine. Not quite as big as Nylon, more like Jalouse or Visionaire.”