(NEW YORK) — Historically Black Colleges and Universities have played a pivotal role in the educational advancement of people of color for over a century.
Inspired by the rich tradition that these prestigious institutions hold, Ralph Lauren announced on Tuesday that it would be partnering with two top HBCUs.
The Polo Ralph Lauren Exclusively for Morehouse and Spelman Colleges Collection includes an array of tailored suits, dresses, footwear, outerwear and accessories inspired by stylish looks worn by the institutions’ students from the 1920s to 1950s.
Ralph Lauren’s partnership with both HBCUs marks the brand’s first-ever creative collaboration with a college as well as the first time the brand has produced a campaign with an all-Black cast, photographer, creative directors, cinematographer and talent — mostly made up of students, faculty and alumni from both schools.
The limited-edition line was also creatively conceptualized and designed by Morehouse and Spelman alumni that work at Ralph Lauren.
Along with Ralph Lauren’s signature tailoring, the brand found ways to weave in sartorial traditions and the history of both schools throughout the line. This can be seen through the white patchwork eyelet and silk wrap dresses, which anchor the Spelman collection and symbolize the highly anticipated white attire ceremony, marking students’ induction into the college.
Likewise, the wool flannel blazer seen within the Morehouse collection serves as an homage to the Morehouse blazer which is a garment traditionally presented to students during their first days on campus.
“This collection expresses the spirited history, deep sense of community and legacy of timeless dressing at historically Black colleges and universities,” said Ralph Lauren, executive chairman and chief creative officer of Ralph Lauren Corporation.
He continued, “It’s so much more than a portrayal of a collegiate design sensibility. It’s about sharing a more complete and authentic portrait of American style and of the American dream — ensuring stories of Black life and experiences are embedded in the inspiration and aspiration of our brand.”
The Polo Ralph Lauren Exclusively for Morehouse and Spelman Colleges Collection will also be amplified through compelling footage and intriguing digital as well as in-store presentations that shoppers can experience to learn more about the collection beyond the products.
Premiering March 28, there is also a film “A Portrait of the American Dream” and a commemorative yearbook full of information on the founding and historical significance of HBCUs along with rare archival imagery showing past students’ style through the years, iconic landscapes and commentary from the presidents of Spelman as well as Morehouse College.
“Historically Black colleges and universities have uniquely been centers of both intellectual discourse and cultural influence for more than 150 years,” David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse College, said in a statement. “The Morehouse partnership with Ralph Lauren intelligently, creatively and boldly puts this intersection on full display, reflecting the breadth of impact we have had in driving societal transformation throughout our history.”
Spelman College president Mary Schmidt Campbell also reflected on the collection, saying it “celebrates the inventiveness of individual style, when it intersects boldly with institutional tradition, such as the choices on display in the wearing of white attire.”
Ralph Lauren’s latest launch aligns with the brand’s series of commitments made in 2020 to take action on racial equity and reexamine how the company portrays the American dream while being mindful of its unique position in defining, interpreting and depicting Americana worldwide.
In December 2021, the brand also pledged $2 million to support scholarships for students at Morehouse College, Spelman College and 10 additional HBCUs through the United Negro College Fund. This pledge is followed by a host of efforts to actively push for career pathways for Black talent through dedicated internship offers for HBCU students as well as expanding talent acquisition relationships with HBCUs beyond the traditional recruiting season.
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