Designer Ralph Lauren Debuts Ode to HBCU Fashion in Controversial New Collection

Designer Ralph Lauren Debuts Ode to HBCU Fashion in Controversial New Collection

Photograph courtesy Ralph Lauren

Famed style designer Ralph Lauren not long ago collaborated with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to unveil his brand’s newest wardrobe assortment that pays homage to Black collegiate style from the 1920s to the 1950s.

The limited-version Polo by Ralph Lauren collection introduced globally this spring and attracts upon fashions from Morehouse and Spelman Schools. As part of the advertising and marketing marketing campaign, the substantial-conclusion brand also launched a 30-moment mini documentary, A Portrait of the American Aspiration, that includes Morehouse and Spelman students, alumni, and school to provide historical context to the cultural contribution Black students have produced to American fashion. It is out there to stream for no cost on 

The collaboration is the brainchild of Morehouse alum James Jeter, the Ralph Lauren director of notion design and exclusive initiatives, and Spelman alum Dara Douglas, director of inspirational content material. This is the to start with time that Lauren has developed a assortment and campaign showcasing an all-Black team of types, photographers, cinematographers, and creators, largely sourced from the two HBCUs, according to the brand’s site.

“When I was approached with a selection inspired by the heritage and traditions of the timeless dressing of historically Black faculties and universities, it turned apparent that portion of style sensibility has been lacking,” Ralph Lauren said in the documentary. “Our portrait of American design and style and our eyesight of the American dream would be incomplete without having Black encounters like these.”

The vintage-influenced clothing ensemble comes soon after the manufacturer was criticized in 2020 for inserting the Greek letters of a Black fraternity on trousers that retailed for a lot more than $300. Upon experiencing backlash, the enterprise discontinued the apparel, apologized, and committed to racial equity efforts. It also donated $2 million in scholarships for college students at Morehouse, Spelman, and 10 more HBCUs as a result of the United Negro College or university Fund in December 2021.

The new selection has also sparked controversy, with some on social media criticizing the model for cultural appropriation. Other people have pointed out that the models it draws on have a advanced historical past. On Twitter, style and costume historian Shelby Ivey Christie mentioned of the selection: 

“Something is a bit off — WASPY/preppy type was a self preservation device for numerous generations of Black ppl. The imagined of likening one’s self to whiteness would make you protected/viewed. The similar is viewed in Gay historical past. Leveraging prep to “pass”/masc. That stuff goes unacknowledged imo.”

Christie and others have also stated that even though they respect the brand name drawing attention to Black colleges, they want that other HBCUs — instead than just the well known Morehouse and Spelman — would receive attention. 

Total, feed-back from HBCU directors has been beneficial about the manner line’s homage to their institutions.

“The elegance of what Ralph Lauren did with us: They produced us part of this challenge,” Morehouse President David Thomas explained in a push release. “They didn’t come in and correct culturally inspiring images of Black persons and then go off and do a little something with it.”

Jeter has claimed of the controversy that he is just pleased the clothing has inspired discussion. 

“What I enjoy about the reaction is that it started off a conversation,” Jeter explained to The New York Times. “It was not all destructive. It was not all positive, but it was the ebb and flows of both, and I imagine in the finish a great deal of individuals get there at a far better put than in which they commenced as a end result of individuals conversations.”

This posting was released in our June 2022 challenge.