Ralph Lauren collection honors ‘heritage and traditions’ of historically Black colleges

I guess Ralph Lauren is trying to make up for appropriating a black fraternity’s symbol on a pair of pants that retailed for over $300 in 2020 without the fraternity’s permission. -Queenie

( CNN.com )

Two years after promising to reexamine how it “portrays the American dream” amid the Black Lives Matter movement, Ralph Lauren is launching a collection inspired by the country’s historically Black colleges.

Created in collaboration with Morehouse and Spelman Colleges in Atlanta, Georgia, the range of outerwear, knitwear, suits and dresses was based on the “rich heritage and esteemed traditions” of both schools, according to a press release.

The label, which is known for its preppy style and collegiate-inspired designs, said it looked to clothes worn at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) between the 1920s and 1950s. But the garments also nod to specific sartorial traditions of the two schools, like the formal maroon blazers given to Morehouse students upon joining the college.

Elsewhere, silk wrap dresses allude to Spelman’s “white attire” tradition, established around 120 years ago, which requires all students to wear “respectable and conservative” white dresses to certain official occasions. (The convention still applies to today’s students, who are expected to wear white to induction and commencement ceremonies, among others.)

white to induction and commencement ceremonies, among others.)

New Ralph Lauren collection honors 'heritage and traditions' of Black colleges

New Ralph Lauren collection honors ‘heritage and traditions’ of Black colleges Credit: Nadine Ijewere/Polo Ralph Lauren

The collection, which was unveiled Tuesday, was overseen by Ralph Lauren directors James Jeter and Dara Douglas, alumni of Morehouse and Spelman, respectively.

In the press release, issued jointly by Ralph Lauren Corporation and the two colleges, the brand’s founder said the collection “expresses the spirited history, deep sense of community and legacy of timeless dressing at historically Black colleges and universities.”

“It’s so much more than a portrayal of a collegiate design sensibility,” the veteran designer added. “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.”

New Ralph Lauren collection honors 'heritage and traditions' of Black colleges

New Ralph Lauren collection honors ‘heritage and traditions’ of Black colleges Credit: Nadine Ijewere/Polo Ralph Lauren

The campaign comes after the label promised in 2020 to “deeply examine bias” across its company and practices. Among a host of commitments — which included giving leadership roles and fair benefits to Black employees, investing in education and supporting NGOs that support communities of color — the label pledged to examine “how we portray the American dream and use our brand voice.” This latter promise included a commitment to using Black models in at least 20% of its marketing and advertising.

The collection, which includes footwear and accessories, was unveiled via a series of campaign images shot by London-born Nigerian Jamaican fashion photographer Nadine Ijewere. It was the first Ralph Lauren campaign ever to be produced by an all-Black team — including creative directors, cinematographer and models, who posed alongside faculty staff and college students past and present.

An accompanying video titled “A Portrait of the American Dream” will be released later this month. A trailer, uploaded to Ralph Lauren’s social media accounts Tuesday, blends interviews with a mix of original campaign footage and archival shots from the two colleges.

New Ralph Lauren collection honors 'heritage and traditions' of Black colleges

New Ralph Lauren collection honors ‘heritage and traditions’ of Black colleges Credit: Nadine Ijewere/Polo Ralph Lauren

In the press release, Spelman College’s president, Mary Schmidt Campbell, said that the collection “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.”

Her Morehouse counterpart, David A. Thomas, meanwhile said that the partnership with Ralph Lauren reflects “the breadth of impact” that HBCUs have had “in driving societal transformation throughout our history.”

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