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Get preppedSchool’s in this spring

Fashion writer and Gossip Girl aficianado Louis Pisano on the enduring legacy of collegiate style.

If Blair Waldorf taught us anything, it’s that you don’t have to have a degree to appreciate collegiate style: university dress is universal. Varsity jackets and British heritage fabrics have become such an ubiquitous part of fashion that their origins often go overlooked. But with studious style coming back in for spring, US-born, Paris-based fashion writer Louis Pisano joins us to explain how to put some prep in your step this season. Why do you think the collegiate style is such an enduring cultural fascination? Louis Pisano: Because it signifies youth, freedom and fun. It’s where a young person’s life really starts to begin. It brings to mind beautiful campuses, football games, crisp autumn mornings headed to class—it’s such an idealised experience that stirs nostalgia even in people who may not have had a direct college experience, but rather consumed it through literature and media. It also signifies a certain socio-economic class that many find highly desirable.
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What are your favourite examples of fashion and academia fusing? Pisano: My favourite would have to be a little book published in 1980 by Lisa Birnbach called The Preppy Handbook. It’s an iconic piece of Americana—a tongue-in-cheek guidebook on the dos and don’ts of preppy lifestyle: what to wear, what to say, what to drive, where to send your kids to school. It’s an anthropological observation report of the culture of being preppy. Lisa Birnbach is the Jane Goodall of preps but instead of watching chimpanzees, she’s watching college kids in polos and blazers. It’s enthralling. Which elements of collegiate dress do you incorporate into your own wardrobe? Pisano: I really love plaid skirts, crisp white shirts, bandanas, high socks, cable-knit sweaters, a big varsity jacket. I spent so much time in private schools as a child that the uniforms I was forced to wear became my uniform outside of school. I like to take these things that were so synonymous with my childhood and then explore the various ways to tell another story. What are the rules to nailing this trend without looking like you’re actually on your way to class… Pisano: Start with the basics, build a uniform and then start playing with proportions, adding unconventional colours and patterns, and some pieces or accessories from another genre. If you look like you’d be sent home for uniform violation, you’ve nailed it!
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How would you describe the difference between British heritage and American varsity and the kinds of trends they’ve inspired in fashion more widely? Pisano: I think the difference lies in the freedom of the fashion. There are strict protocols when it comes to British heritage—there’s an air of inflexibility and stiffness—while American varsity is bursting with energy, youthfulness and (dare I say) sex. It’s not stuffy, it has a swagger about it, a bravado—it yells where British heritage whispers. What do you think is the most successful way of disrupting traditional university-attire and forging a style of your own? Pisano: I think first of all you have to understand that this style is inherently elitist and classist. The key to making it your own and taking the snobbery out of it is to turn it into something the classic gatekeepers of the style would never approve of. Disruption is the key. Which TV shows or films do you think have made the biggest impact on collegiate fashion trickling into the mainstream? Pisano: You can’t talk about this without mentioning Gossip Girl, the OG one and the reboot. The way Eric Daman took the idea of school uniforms and turned them on their head was genius. Another example I’ve seen recently is the film Do Revenge—it’s very TikTok-ready, representing a 2020s vibe with classic preppy pastels, but with the intent of looking camp. Why do you think this mode of dressing is seeing a resurgence now? Pisano: There’s a safeness in uniformity, in nostalgia, in having parameters one dresses within, nothing scary, nothing unknown, this mode of dressing is like a familiar friend to many reminding us of better days when we were younger in a post pandemic world. College life, little responsibility, the last step before entering into the very real world we live in today.

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Flip the script on modern day prep

Take a page out of Louis' textbook and invest in pieces that'll help you pass with flying colours.Take a page out of Louis' textbook and invest in pieces that'll help you pass with flying colours.
Shop Louis’ curation

Spring Edition

There’s nothing like springtime in the city. Uptown, downtown and from old school to new school, we’re stepping into this season with the fits that collide classics with the personal flavour and flamboyance of city life.

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