by Stephanie Rosiles
Ralph Lauren, seen as the quintessential pinnacle of American luxury, will be launching a collaboration that turns the spotlight away from its traditional New England Ivy League inspiration that is, inherently, elitist and incredibly white — to Black collegiate style.
With its flannel suits and chunky knit turtlenecks paired with tortoiseshell frames, Ralph Lauren is the standard bearer for the American dream, the company is rooted in imagery known for New England elitism. Lauren, who for over 50 years, has been at the helm of telling the world the story of what it means to be an American, is now clarifying the vision of the Atlantic Coast, with its autumnal landscapes, uber-tweed clothing, equestrianism and a nostalgia felt through the stories like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History or Dead Poets Society (1989).
HBCUs, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities, are rooted in the Higher Education Act of 1965, which defines an HBCU as “any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.”
“Historically, Black colleges and universities have uniquely been centers of both intellectual discourse and cultural influence for more than 150 years. 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,” said David A. Thomas, Ph.D., president of Morehouse College.
The collection, described in a press release by Spelman College, “seeks to honor the history of both schools and widen the aperture of Ralph Lauren’s storytelling.” Spelman, which is a leading liberal arts college, is the country’s leading producer of Black women who complete STEM Ph.D’s. It is ranked College No. 3 nationally by The Wall Street Journal in terms of student satisfaction. The U.S. News & World Report ranks it No. 1 for the 15th year in a row among HBCUs and No. 4 for social mobility among liberal arts colleges. Needless to say, the college is the portrait of an American Dream — with its deep history and self-invention.
Lauren, in his own statement, stated that the collection expresses “the spirited history, deep sense of community and legacy of timeless dressing at HBCUs. 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 aspiration of our brand.” This is the first time in Ralph Lauren’s history that they have produced a campaign with an all-Black cast.
Spelman’s press release reads —
“Celebrating the sartorial traditions and history of both schools with Ralph Lauren’s signature tailoring, the collection expands the collegiate sensibility intrinsic to the brand’s identity. The white patchwork eyelet and silk wrap dresses, which anchor the Spelman collection, symbolize the highly anticipated white attire ceremony, marking students’ induction into the college. Similarly, the wool flannel blazer serves as an homage to the Morehouse blazer, a garment traditionally bestowed to students during their first days on campus.
The full collection — which includes outerwear, knits, tailored suits, dresses, footwear, accessories and more — references styles worn by Morehouse and Spelman students from the 1920s to 1950s, capturing the colleges’ deep history and honoring their contributions to American style.”
The film, titled “A Portrait of the American Dream,” will be released on March 28th at 7:30 PM EDT on select Ralph Lauren social channels.
A sneak peak of the collection: