- Facebook/The Exeter Issue
The teenagers at Phillips Exeter Academy have some serious runway game. Mimicking the preppy style of a J.Crew catalog, they sport couture items and mix and match prints with ease.
The Exeter Issue is an Instagram account that showcases the best dressed students at the most elite boarding school in America. Inspired by the viral Instagram account Humans of New York, The Exeter Issue features street portraits and interviews gathered on campus.
In 2016, we spoke with The Exeter Issue’s founder Rachel Luo, now a college freshman, about the blog’s inspiration.
“People often tell me that their goal before they graduate is to be featured on The Exeter Issue,” Rachel Luo told Business Insider before graduating from Philips Exeter Academy.
In fall 2014, the Houston native set out to create a fashion blog at her school. She wanted to give the portraits, which she mostly shot, more depth by adding quotes from her subjects.
She recruited a handful of fashionable peers to form The Board, which helps identify students and later votes on whose threads make it to Facebook and Instagram.
Today, when a board member spots a particularly dapper student walking across campus or sitting in class, they text the group’s photographer, who arranges an impromptu shoot.
“The usually say yes,” Luo said. “I’ve gotten a couple, ‘Oh, I think I could do better.'”
"I feel like my time here is slipping through my fingers. My 333 is due in two weeks. I'll be a senior and turning 18 in the fall. I'll be in college by next spring! I'm terrified and I'm excited. I just hope we all stop every now and then to appreciate how amazing the Exeter community truly is." Olivia Lei, 2018
The board member or photographer asks the student their name, year, and a little bit about themselves, and uses the most pithy quote in the caption for Facebook and Instagram.
Founded in 1781, Phillips Exeter Academy has a reputation for exclusivity. Only 19% of applicants are admitted, and tuition costs a whopping $50,888 a year.
Still, the school’s commitment to diversity and its $1 billion endowment, which helps cover costs for students from low-income families, brings in teenagers from all walks of life.
"Senior fall really is as tough as it gets. It's that you have the stress of college and the future on top of all the normal stuff. This place takes a lot from you, it really does. But it also gives you some incredible people. After all, I met Franco here! So four years later, here's my advice. Find the people who make you happy, and spend as much time as you can with them. It sounds simple enough, but it makes the difference between a great or rough time at Exeter." "Having a friend who you know always has your back makes Exeter a lot easier. Being a senior has its challenges but knowing you can depend on someone makes a huge difference. Take the time to get close to the friends that matter most because you won't regret it." Rachel Luo and Franco Santolamazza, 2017
The Exeter Issue aims to celebrate those differences.
“You see a lot of Timberlands in the winter and a whole bunch of Vineyard Vines come spring,” Luo said. The Exeter Issue only features those “ordinary” looks occasionally.
“I look for [outfits] that are a little more special, a little more outstanding,” she said.
The Exeter Issue gives students a chance to be vulnerable. “I’m kind of scared for the future — college and getting a job and whatnot,” said Chris Agard, who graduated in 2017. “But I’ve learned that it’s okay to be scared and even though I am I can still enjoy the ride.”
Sophia Oguri, a senior, shared a commitment to reaching outside of her social circle. “I have never been in a community that is this loving, even amidst everything going on in the world today, and I want to be sure to take full advantage of it,” Oguri said.
"My new year's resolution this year is to get out of my comfort zone, reach out and get to know more people. Last year I found myself mainly surrounded by my core group of friends, and while they are absolutely incredible people, I realized that there are so many other people here that are well worth knowing. I have never been in a community that is this loving, even amidst everything going on in the world today, and I want to be sure to take full advantage of it. So yea if you wanna be friends lmk ????." Sophia Oguri, 2018
Fellow senior Erica Hogan writes for the school newspaper, The Exonian. “It lets me interact with people I otherwise would never talk to,” Hogan told the Exeter Issue.
Some students keep it simple. “I catch flights, not feelings,” Charlotte Sununu, said.
Teens, even impeccably dressed ones, will be teens.