Collegiate-inspired design is a growing trend I’ve seen emerging in retail across the globe, from New York to London to Dusseldorf. Well-known brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren have been the champions of this trend for many preppy enthusiasts, from summer celebrations of “Prep World” to constant evolutions of diffusion lines (think Ralph Lauren spin-offs like Denim & Supply and Rugby) in order to give this customer base what they’re craving. Knowing the global expanse of these brands and styles is one thing, but witnessing it first-hand over the pond confirmed just how much of the market prepsters hold.
On a recent trip to London, I happened upon a charming store named Hackett. The moment I stepped inside, I knew I found a little treasure. Since 1985, Hackett has been one of London’s sought-after brands. What began as a second-hand shop specializing in traditional British clothing and one-of-a-kind vintage pieces, has flourished over the years into a lifestyle brand that exudes “The Classic Brit.”
Patterned wallcoverings and traditional wall cabinets lend themselves to a residential-inspired setting. The space was divvied up into room-like areas, where collections were handsomely displayed next to antique pieces. Stories unfolded through the use of vintage props and stylized photography. A must see, indeed!
The eccentric British style found at Jack Wills hints to collegiate chic while adding a spin to the expected prim and proper look—an edgier spin that is! As I was walking along Carnaby Street, I came across Jack Wills and was quite delighted! The large pink neon sign and open storefront piqued my interest, and as soon as I stepped inside I was intrigued by the quirky focals and unexpected chaos found throughout the visual displays.
Various antlers mounted to the walls became textural elements as they were scattered across the space. Displays of faux animal heads are a common element we’ve seen in merchandising, but Jack Wills juxtaposes them perfectly with a graphic pink neon version added to the mix.
Striped patterns adorned lampshades and merchandise popped when organized against clean white walls. In contrast, at the cashwrap, canvas totes aligned the counter and framed memorabilia crowded the wall, intensifying the eclectic personality found within this store. Combinations of vintage furniture and retro fixtures further supported this one-of-a-kind retail experience.
Last up on our British retail tour is Tommy Hilfiger in London. This store offers a more modern translation of this new trend. Vintage trunks, a pin-striped upholstered bench and athletic gear from football helmets to orange painted trophies in the children’s department all work together to evoke this brand’s playfully preppy heritage.
It’s not just in London that we noticed this trend, we’ve been keeping an eye on Brooks Brothers, Campus by Mark O’Polo and Rugby Ralph Lauren for months (and some even years).
The new Brooks Brothers in Flatiron caters to college students and young adults with its sophisticated library aesthetic.
We found Campus by Mark O’Polo while out and about in Düsseldorf. The design is evocative of a college student’s dorm room.
With 15+ retail locations, Rugby Ralph Lauren has been rocking the prep look since its brand launch in 2004, infusing just a little touch of punk to keep this classic style fresh. Aimed at men and women ages 18 to 25, Rugby was Ralph Lauren’s first official foray into the college-aged market.
This return to prep and proper got me thinking. Is it being influenced by pop culture? With mainstream hits that fantasize the lives of the elite like Gossip Girl, Revenge, Royal Pains and Pretty Little Liars, it’s not just college co-eds dying to get the look. Is it the resurgence of the British Royal Family in the media? Or is it a rebellion to the disheveled street fashions that have been taking over the past few years? No matter why it hit the retail scene, I think collegiate-inspired retail and its prep and circumstance is here stay.
Featured Image property of Chute Gerdeman