Two years after promising to reconsider how he would “reflect the American dream” among 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, costumes and dresses was based on the “rich heritage and venerable traditions” of both schools, the press release said.

The label, known for its elegant style and collegially inspired design, said it looked like clothes worn in historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) between the 1920s and 1950s. But the clothing also conforms to the specific clothing traditions of the two schools, such as the formal burgundy blazers given to Morkhouse students upon admission to the college.

Elsewhere, wrapped silk dresses refer to Spellman’s tradition of “white clothing,” founded about 120 years ago, which requires all students to wear “respectable and conservative” white dresses to certain formal events. (The convention still applies to today’s students, who are expected to wear white at admission and admission ceremonies, among others.)

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

In a press release issued jointly by Ralph Lauren Corporation and the two colleges, the brand’s founder said the collection “expresses an energetic history, a deep sense of community and a legacy of timeless clothing in historically black colleges and universities”.

“It’s much more than a reflection of a collegial design sense,” the veteran designer added. “It’s about sharing a more complete and authentic portrait of the American style and the American dream – to ensure that stories about the lives and experiences of blacks are included in the inspiration and aspiration of our brand.”

The campaign came after the label promised in 2020 to “deeply explore bias” in its company and practice. Among a variety of commitments that included providing leadership roles and fair benefits to black workers, investing in education and supporting NGOs that support color communities, the label pledged to explore “how we reflect the American dream and use our brand voice.” “This latest promise included a commitment to use black models in at least 20% of marketing and advertising.

The collection, which includes shoes and accessories, was presented through a series of photos of the company taken by London-born Nigerian photographer from Jamaica Nadine Ijever. It was the first Ralph Lauren campaign ever shot by an exclusively black team – including creative directors, cameraman and models who posed alongside faculty and college students in the past and present.

An accompanying video titled “Portrait of the American Dream” will be released later this month. The trailer, uploaded Tuesday on Ralph Lauren’s social media, combines interviews with original footage of the company and archival footage from the two colleges.

In a press release, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell said the collection “celebrates the ingenuity of an individual’s style when it boldly intersects with an institutional tradition such as choosing white clothes.”

Meanwhile, her colleague from Morehouse, David A. Thomas, said the partnership with Ralph Lauren reflects the “breadth of impact” that the HBCU has had “in fostering the transformation of society throughout our history.”

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