Ralph Lauren has unveiled its first-of-a-kind collaboration with Atlanta’s venerable Morehouse College and Spelman College, showcasing a limited-edition capsule collection inspired by the schools’ rich heritage and sartorial traditions.
The Polo Ralph Lauren Exclusively for Morehouse and Spelman Colleges Collection seeks to honor the history of both schools and widen the aperture of Ralph Lauren’s storytelling — including the nature of life at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), a story untold in depictions of Ralph Lauren’s collegiate sensibility until today.
“This collection expresses the spirited history, deep sense of community and legacy of timeless dressing at historically Black colleges and universities,” said Ralph Lauren, executive chairman and chief creative officer of Ralph Lauren Corporation. “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 the American dream — ensuring stories of Black life and experiences are embedded in the inspiration and aspiration of our brand.”
Conceptualized and designed by Morehouse alum James Jeter, director of concept design & special projects for Ralph Lauren, in collaboration with Spelman graduate Dara Douglas, director of inspirational content for Ralph Lauren, the collection marks the first time the brand has partnered with an institute of higher learning.
“Spelman College’s culture is a powerful combination of community engagement and confident self-invention. This collection celebrates the inventiveness of individual style, when it intersects boldly with institutional tradition, such as the choices on display in the wearing of white attire,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman. “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 how a personal fashion aesthetic intersects with institutional values of solidarity and connection.”
The collection also marks the first time the brand has produced a campaign with an all-Black cast including its photographer, creative directors, cinematographer and talent – predominantly comprising students, faculty and alumni at both institutions. The campaign was shot by internationally acclaimed fashion photographer Nadine Ijewere.
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.
“Historically Black colleges and universities have uniquely been centers of both intellectual discourse and cultural influence for more than 150 years,” said David A. Thomas, Ph.D., president of Morehouse College. “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.”
Through compelling footage and dynamic digital and in-store presentations, consumers can experience the story of this collection beyond the product. Ralph Lauren’s accompanying film, “A Portrait of the American Dream,” and commemorative yearbook detail the founding and historical significance of HBCUs through the lens of Morehouse and Spelman, demonstrating the use of style as an expression of aspiration, a form of self-empowerment and a tool of resistance. Both feature rare archival imagery from each college juxtaposed against collection imagery on the campuses’ iconic landscapes, with commentary from the presidents of both colleges and several faculty, alumni and student cast members present throughout the campaign.
The film premieres on March 28, 2022, at 7:30 p.m. EDT on select Ralph Lauren social channels. The yearbook will be available digitally alongside the film on March 29, 2022, on RalphLauren.com.
The collection will be available online to Ralph Lauren’s consumers on March 29, and at Morehouse College and Spelman College Follett campus bookstores and in select Ralph Lauren stores while quantities last.
In 2020, Ralph Lauren made a series of commitments to take action on racial equity and reexamine how the Company portrays the American dream, mindful of its unique position in defining, interpreting and depicting Americana worldwide. Aligned with these commitments, the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation pledged $2 million to support scholarships for students at Morehouse College, Spelman College and 10 additional HBCUs through the United Negro College Fund in December 2021.
The Company is also actively facilitating career pathways for Black talent by deepening internship, recruitment, mentorship and development programs. These efforts include reserving dedicated internship offers for HBCU students and expanding talent acquisition relationships with HBCUs beyond the traditional recruiting season.