Overnight, Polo Ralph Lauren took to its website and social media platforms to unveil a co-ed capsule collection of classic, Americana-meets-collegiate staples in the way of cable-knit sweaters, cardigans, blazers plus more. Of course, this isn’t just any ordinary collection release for the historic brand.
The collection, designed exclusively for Morehouse and Spelman Colleges – two historically black colleges and universities (HCBU) – by past alumni who currently work at the sub-label, strengthens Ralph Lauren’s relationship with the two institutions and perhaps delivers a new vision for that American dream Ralph Lipschitz first envisioned way back in 1967: one of inclusivity and one of recognition, paying homage to the fashion history of Black students in America.
As Robin Givhan from The Washington Post puts it, “for more than 50 years, Lauren has been writing a tale about what it means to be American. And now he’s made a significant edit. It isn’t so much a correction as it is a clarification.”
While not everyone is necessarily on board with the collaboration – Tweets about the collaboration have included some who see it as somewhat pandering – it does align with the promise the company made in 2021, with Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation donating $2 million USD to support scholarships for students at 12 historically Black colleges and universities across the country.
What you’ll find from the unprecedented creative collaboration is a selection of well-appointed suiting options reminiscent of 50s and 60s style, bold knitwear, staple outerwear, dresses, footwear, and accessories. Some pieces are also designed to factor in the historical significance of both schools, like the maroon Morehouse blazers and white dresses students would wear to the school’s induction ceremony.
The collection was evidently inspired by images from the schools’ archives (that date back to the 1920s) and captures the style and aesthetic befitting to the Ralph Lauren label, but does so through a refreshingly new Ivy-esque lens that is less WASP-y and more inclusive.
“This collection expresses the spirited history, deep sense of community, and legacy of timeless dressing at historically Black colleges and universities,” said Ralph Lauren in a company statement.
“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 inspiration and aspiration of our brand.”
Both HBCU schools are headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia and represent great cultural institutions, respectively. Morehouse can count Martin Luther King Jr. and Spike Lee as esteemed alumni, while Alice Walker and Stacey Abrams were students at Spelman.
That Ralph Lauren x Morehouse x Spelman collab is something special. With its archival homage to Black collegiate dress, it interjects Black style into the Americana cannon (see also: Pyer Moss—American, Also)
— Shelton Boyd-Griffith (@flyrebel) March 15, 2022
The Polo Ralph Lauren Morehouse and Spelman Colleges Exclusive Capsule Collection is available on March 29 via Ralph Lauren and selected stores.