A Good Read: Take Ivy’s Take on Ivy League Prep

AN INTERVIEW WITH WES DEL VAL, ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER AT POWERHOUSE BOOKS

Take Ivy

Originally published in 1965 in Japanese, Take Ivy is very much about outsiders looking in, imbuing Ivy League campuses – and the style found there – with exuberant romanticism. While the wide-open spaces of the campuses were likely liberating to wide-eyed photographers accustomed to the Tokyo grind, it was really the confidence of the men on campuses that captured Japan’s eye. Once the photographs were published, Ivy League style took off in Japan, in part due to the book, which saw a re-issue this year with a long-awaited English translation. Coinciding with the current prep revival, it’s on the shelves of stylish stores, ready for a new generation to pick up and become enthralled. We were privileged to sit down with Wes Del Val, associate publisher at powerHouse Books, to probe deeper into the wonder surrounding this period in style history.

Rue La La: There seems to be a fascination both with the fashion of these American students - madras pants, collegiate sweaters, yellow rain slickers, etc. - and also with their activities. How are the two intertwined?
Wes: I think it depends on the activities and whether or not girls were nearby. As with many young men for many years on college campuses, if it’s just guys partaking in something physical, style is amongst the last things on their mind. If girls might see them or there is a chance to impress them, style, in all its varied forms, has suddenly gained in importance.

Rue La La: How did the re-issue come about? Walk us through the steps that put the book back into print, complete with an English translation.
Wes: It was really about realizing it was a great project, being aware of the resurgence in prep and classic Americana, and persistence in tracking down the rights-holder in Japan. So much of the credit goes to the style bloggers as well for doing all the free publicity in spreading the word.

Rue La La: Is there still an element of prep in Japan’s style today?
Wes: Prep is such an important and influential style today that there is absolutely prep in Japanese style today, and it will continue to have its adherents globally for many years to come.

Rue La La: Can you point out some other modern updates to the style? Is there a resurgence of preppiness happening now?
Wes: The most significant in the past 20 years has been how the hip-hop generation has so interestingly twisted it with street style. There has been a broad resurgence for about 4-5 years, but again, the pendulum will keep swinging and something else will steal the limelight for a little while. I’m already picking up hints of it happening on the style blogs I read.

Rue La La: Many creative directors of iconic preppy brands have looked to this book as a fashion bible. What can it teach the aspiring prepster today?
Wes: To wear clothes that fit their frames!


January 4, 2011