Polo Ralph Lauren’s New HBCU Capsule Collection Highlights Black Influence in Style Trends

Polo Ralph Lauren teamed up with two prominent HBCUs to release a capsule collection highlighting the history of Black people serving as style trendsetters.

Ralph Lauren collaborated with an all-Black team of creators to capture their new collection that serves as an ode to 1920s to 1950s collegiate style.

The collection was made in collaboration with Morehouse College and Spelman College and captured by creative directors, photographers, cinematographers, and models comprised mostly of students from the two HBCUs, WWD reports.

Pieces in the collection include Italian-designed tweed three-piece suits, boatneck sweaters emblazoned with an “M” for Morehouse, or a double-breasted linen blazer with a Spelman crest. Sportswear pieces feature a “67” on the back in honor of Morehouse’s founding in 1867 and Ralph Lauren’s in 1967.

The collection looks like a page from an old Morehouse or Spelman yearbook but serves as a reminder of the styles Black students were creating when racism and segregation were the norms.

“It was really important to steep this in history to show that this is not new,” James Jeter, Ralph Lauren director of concept design and special projects, 2013 Morehouse College alum and creator of the capsule, said.

“A lot of this project was really about changing ownership around how we think about clothing.”

“So who owns three-piece suits? Who owns cable cardigans? Who owns the circle skirt, for instance? And while it’s typically and historically been relegated to Ivy League schools, if you see a lot of these archival images from [Morehouse and] Spelman, that has really helped to inform a lot of the way that we approached not only the design but the way that we approached the campaigns as well,” Jeter said.

Spelman College President Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell applauded the collection for working to tell another missing part of Black history through fashion.

“By sharing the early history of Spelman, as reflected in archival research, through clothing, the collection encourages conversations about the creative power of the Black experience and the ways in which a personal fashion aesthetic intersects with institutional values of solidarity and connection,” she said.

“The history of dress and style played a critical role in the late 1950s and 1960s in the civil rights movement. Students who sat at lunch tables, or who protested in front of segregated department stores or marched in protests always did so with deliberate and planned consciousness of their dress.”