Robin Resch Captures Princeton University’s Historical Fashion Parade – WWD

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Robin Resch Captures Princeton University’s Historical Fashion Parade – WWD

Princeton University has a long-standing class reunion tradition that has been around since the late 1890s: the P’rade.

Each year, about 30,000 alumni return for three days for Princeton’s reunion. And arguably, the P’rade is the reunion weekend’s major highlight. Alumni march in chronological order by class throughout the campus wearing their orange-hued jackets. Family and friends, many of whom wear their grandparents’ or parents’ jackets, are also encouraged to join in.

This year, the essence of this colorful tradition was captured by photographer Robin Resch, who created the art for Princeton University’s 2023 reunion schedule of events and posters. Resch said “the P’rade is an incredibly unique event,” and likens this special procession to “a historic fashion show.” 

Resch was honored by the Reunion Committee as the first photographic artist and graduate school alumni selected to create the reunion’s imagery. Previously, Resch worked in New York at Karl Lagerfeld North America and later Escada. In the mid to late 1990s, she moved to Europe for work. Upon returning, Resch received her master’s in architecture from Princeton in 2003.

Resch has maintained a photography studio in Princeton, New Jersey, cultivating her relationship with the school. She was the exclusive campaign photographer for Michelle Obama in Princeton in 2012. From 2020 to 2021, Resch was appointed the Anne Reeves Artist in Residence by Princeton’s Arts Council and the Princeton University Humanities Council.

Robin Resch’s photograph was used for the 2023 reunion’s schedule of events.

Courtesy of Princeton University.

Regarding the class jackets, they are given to students at their 25th class reunion — a tradition that started in 1912. Jackets can greatly differ over the years, and some contain class-specific interesting or funny stories from their youth spent at Princeton while others have woven specific symbols into the jacket lining. Striped patterns are often a recurring motif, as the school’s symbol is a tiger.

Captivated by this long-standing Princeton tradition, Resch used the reunion jackets in her photograph to convey the energy, diversity of self-expression and sense of community when alumni return to Princeton.

“I felt my mission was to honor Princeton’s unique tradition and make it fresh and approachable for all,” said Resch. “To portray Princeton’s dynamic energy that stems from its special history and embraces change and innovation.”

The inspiration behind this year’s reunion cover art created by Resch comes from the archives of “The Bob Rodgers ’56 Reunion and Beer Jacket Collection” at the Princetoniana Museum. She looked at the archives of preserved class jackets and specifically ones that stood out the most, from the years 1908 to 1967.

Many of the jackets she picked had interesting stories of the alumni owners. Through this approach, Resch honored the jacket owners and showcased the deep-rooted history of the Princeton tradition. Resch created her own version of a P’rade in her photograph, as the jackets selected were placed in chronological order from right to left.

Photographer Robin Resch with some of the class reunion jackets used for the cover art.

Tori Repp/Fotobuddy

When meeting with the Reunion Committee about the cover art commission, they referenced the more abstract work found in her landscape. Thus, given the freedom to do something different, Resch created an image that one would connect with — even if they weren’t familiar with the reunion jacket tradition.

Resch likens the project to be “like creating the album cover art for a (really) big band.” The image was created with a single photographic image. Resch did not digitally create the image composition nor manipulate it with any software.

Resch worked with the Princeton University Museum Store to create a line of items with her contemporary image. They focused on small items that could be produced with high quality, given the quick turnaround time frame. A glass tray, a notebook, notecards and a glass paperweight are available for purchase and a scarf are in the works.

Despite being given a limited time to create the imagery, Resch’s visual cover art was a hit. The Reunion Committee fell in love once presented with the final image. Some were unaware that the image was created using the historic jackets or that she even created a photograph.

“My creative challenge was how to convey this unique history and incredible shared energy through something static — how to bring the jackets to life while also creating imagery that is true to my own work,” said Resch. “I wanted to convey the emotive feeling of being in the energy and creativity of the P’rade.”

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