Old-school Prep Back With Fresh Twist for Spring

Prep got an edgy twist for spring 2024, as designers presented updated takes on American sportswear classics.

For his spring collection, WWD’s designer of the year Dries Van Noten set out to make the familiar tropes of collegiate style unfamiliar. “We really explored things that material-wise are straightforward,” he told executive West Coast editor Booth Moore, “but turned and twisted, subverted and made them into something else better.”

Mission accomplished. Buyers including Net-a-porter’s Kate Benson, Neiman Marcus’ Jodie Khan and Alix Morabito of Galeries Lafayette lauded Van Noten for his sporty take on the trend, mixing rugby, cricket and tennis uniforms with shrunken club jackets and khaki Bbermuda shorts.

The collision of geek and jock fashion was key to the styling at another buyer favorite from Paris: Miu Miu, where Miuccia Prada executed her character study of classroom archetypes on an A-list lineup, including actors Troye Sivan, Cailee Spaeny and Mame Bineta Sane.

They wore nerdy glasses and colorful Band-Aids on their heels and toes. “It felt like an anti-glamour statement, although glamor was never far away,” observed international editor Miles Socha, pointing to the chunky crystal necklaces, which were layered over navy blue polo shirts. 

Polos were a repetitive element in the Miu Miu lineup, worn with the collars popped over everything from flared micro skirts to board shorts. A hallmark of preppy style, polos emerged as a key item this season, also spotted in Milan at Gucci with the brand’s signature green and red webbing and at Jil Sander, accented with silver metal rings.

At Loewe, Jonathan Anderson made long sheer dresses out of his polos. He also showed them as tops layered under V-neck and quarter-zip sweaters. “I’m loving daywear at the moment,” Jonathan Anderson declared to Socha who felt that when matched with high-waist pants that reached the sternum, “the look fell somewhere between boyish and awkward.”

Other references to prep on the European runways included varsity stripe at Benetton, mixed plaids at Marni and Louis Vuitton and twinsets at Bora Aksu.

Still, the preppy look is rooted in the American ivy league, and designers in New York laid claim to that legacy. The polo was again the star, showing up at Puppets and Puppets, Theory and Tory Burch.

And although Ralph Lauren focused on western wear for his return to New York Fashion Week — “bringing a taste of RRL ranch to Brooklyn Navy Yard,” as Moore put it — he did offer madras skirts, crested blazers and a polo shirt for evening, refreshed in gold.

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