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As recently as the 1990s, many of the best-known black-owned fashion brands were synonymous with urban streetwear or hip-hop.
Supporting black designers meant wearing loose Karl Kani jeans with an oversized Fubu t-shirt. Kids who had money (or wanted everyone to think they had) wore Tommy Hilfger, Guess, Polo.
There was almost no in-between.
Luckily, fast forward to today, and the world of black fashion has exploded. Not only are several classic black-owned clothing brands still around or enjoying a revival, but enterprising and enterprising young black people are creating bold and exciting new businesses, brands and looks.
They wear them too. Most Exciting: As people who slept in historically black colleges and universities have suddenly woken up and realized that not only do these institutions exist, they also realize that in many ways HBCUs are the epicenters of the trend of fashion globally.
This week, Reckon’s Alexis D. Wray does it for the culture by highlighting an emerging HBCU trend combining couture and community.
Please share this newsletter with a style icon who always dresses to impress.
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Being a broke student no longer means looking broke every day.
Consider This: HBCU students across the country gather on campus to celebrate one of the world’s hottest brands for what they call Telfar Tuesday.
This trend is becoming increasingly popular in institutions like Howard University in Washington, DC, Spelman College in Atlanta, and Elizabeth City State University in northeastern North Carolina.
“Sometimes our HBCU lacks student engagement, so we have to get people to come out and be themselves. Sometimes it feels like putting on your bag, nice clothes and going out,” said Deleini Froyze, a junior at Elizabeth City State, whose sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.began the Telfar campus tradition on Tuesday.
The sorority, one of the Divine Nine Black Greek Letter organizations, kicked off the event at their institution, to bring the campus to life and celebrate their love for the Telfar brand.
Clemens of Telfar, a queer Libero-American fashion designer and creator of the Telfar bag, launched the brand in 2005. His tagline – “It’s not for you. It’s for everyone” – fitting given that everyone from media mogul Oprah Winfrey to black women at HBCUs are now wearing them.
“It feels good to support another black creator and designer,” said Brailynn Kitchings, a sophomore at Elizabeth City State and member of Zeta Phi Beta.
Find out how new financial technologies are bringing sewing within the reach of today’s students.
Ralph Lauren Corp. obviously does not belong to blacks. But you can’t knock the hustle and bustle of Southern HBCU alumni behind the multibillion-dollar fashion brand’s limited-release collection celebrating African-American college life.
the Polo Ralph Lauren exclusively for the Morehouse and Spelman Colleges collectionreleased in March, is an original idea of James Throwwho started working at a Ralph Lauren store while still in high school before enrolling at Morehouse, and Dara Douglasa graduate of Spelman College, whose job title at the Ralph Lauren Library was Director of Inspirational Content.
The campaign has been hijacked a bit by social media users questioning a white billionaire’s decision to create a collection that appears to date back to Jim Crow times. It was also widely celebrated by African Americans who applauded one of the world’s best-known fashion brands, centered on life, culture and, perhaps most importantly, paying black designers.
Throw, writing on his personal account instagram page, says: “Mother morehouse changed my life and continues to inspire me. I’m proud to share his and Spelman’s story with the world and authentically represent and pay homage to our heritage.
the drop also featured role models who are students and faculty members of spelman and Morehouse as well as photographer Nadine Ijewere and the all-Black creative team.
Since the fashion industry simply can’t get enough of HBCUs and black, college-aged designers and influencers, here are some additional things to note:
- The Social Change Fund United, founded by NBA stars Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, has announced a Black designed to celebrate six HBCUs.
- Last year, three HBCU students, Kah’Milah Ledgester, Trajan Baker and Sharone Townsend, won Target’s 2021 HBCU Design Challenge. The winners saw their designs sold at Target stores, won cash prizes and other rewards.
- If you’ve paid attention to HBCU football, especially in SWAC, you’ve probably noticed that Deion Sander, the Jackson State University head coach and former NFL player, hasn’t just improved the Tigers’ game on the court. He also brought a bit of swagger to the merchandising game.
Over the past two seasons, Coach Prime has popularized clothing with the simple “J” for Jackson State so much that caps and hoodies were hard to come by. Well, now that the Spring Ball is about to heat up and eyes are once again on Mississippi’s capital, you’ll definitely want to pull your J gear out of The JSU online store before it’s too late.
Separation advice. I leave you with the words of Hogoe Kpessoua student who has been featured on our newsletter and website for building its Florida-based luxury brand. She often urges her social media followers that their retweet could lead to her next sale: “The next sale could be on your TL.”
So be sure to spread the joy of your favorite black brands.