Sunday, September 13, 2009
I'm not entirely sure why, but I find the idea of an internationally-renowned university signing on to "design" its own fashion line to be fundamentally distasteful -- and a little bit sad. Rather like seeing a formerly A-list celebrity sign on for his or her own reality show, Harvard's new mens' clothing venture, the uncreatively named Harvard Yard, is tantamount to a public admission that money is its prime motivator (reputation be damned).
Not only does Harvard's forway into the fashion world smack of opportunism, it also appears to champion (in potentially unflattering ways) an image that Harvard and its rivals have been battling for decades. Like many fashion labels, Harvard Yard is selling a lifestyle just as much as its selling a shirt or pair of slacks. And, with its prepster/Gossip Girl style and its higher price point, this lifestyle is precisely the type of elitist, prep school image that Harvard and its peers have been trying to shake for the past few decades. While Harvard, Yale and the like have made great success in the past thirty years or so transitioning from blue blood, mens' clubs into true meritocracies, these institutions still carry with them a reputation for being elite (for all the wrong reasons). Besides, if my experience (at Yale in the early 2000s) is anything to go on, most Ivy League students dress as casually as any other college students. T-shirts, jeans and flip-flops are the order of the day, not smart plaids, trench coats or loafers. In short, I find it incredible that Harvard is willing to cash in on this somewhat unflattering (and in many ways unfair) reputation simply because being elite and preppy carries a certain cache for a subset of the über-trendy.
But I'll get down off my soapbox and get down to the heart of the matter: is Harvard Yard any good from a fashion perspective? As is the case with most celebrity fashion designers, Harvard Yard is fairly ordinary and unoriginal. It's also predictably preppy --almost to the point of caricature. Sockless penny loafers? Check! Seersucker? Check! Plaid? Double Check! All in all, you could find just about all these pieces at your local J.Crew (and for a good bit less, to boot).
So what do you think? Am I being overly sensitive? Or lacking in vision? Is this really just a genius move by Harvard that other schools will be sure to follow? (In my mind's eye, I'm currently envisioning what great fun schools with partying reputations could have with their own fashion labels....)