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'This is historic' | Spelman students model for Ralph Lauren's debut collection with Georgia HBCUs

The models used in the campaign consisted of mostly students, faculty and alumni from both schools.

ATLANTA — Two of Georgia's historically Black colleges released their new clothing campaign with one of the biggest U.S. fashion designers Tuesday. The Polo Ralph Lauren Exclusively for Morehouse and Spelman Colleges Collection brought several firsts for the HBCUs and the brand. One of them being those that made up the campaign.

The limited-edition collection marks the first time the brand has used an all-Black team to produce a campaign. This included the photographer, creative directors, cinematographer and models involved.

The models consisted of primarily students, faculty and alumni from both schools. 

Mykal-Michele Longino, Indi Clayton, Kendall Jones and Madison Bryant are Spelman students chosen to represent their school.

Credit: provided
Four Spelman College students discussing new Ralph Lauren campaign.

"There was basically an open model casting sent to the various organizations that we are in," Longino, a senior English major at Spelman College, said. "The goal was just to get a diverse group of Spelmanites, students who go to the school and who represent and also love their institutions." 

According to the four Spelmanites, they originally applied to the casting call without knowing that it was a collaboration with Ralph Lauren. 

"The crazy part is Polo Ralph Lauren was nowhere in the email. We didn't know; we just sent in our pictures," Clayton, a sophomore Political Science major at Spelman, said. "I actually heard back the day of the deadline and when you clicked the attached file that was when they were like, It's Polo and we were like, oh my god, this is crazy."

The campaign began production in early October of 2021 and continued throughout the fall. Bryant, a senior Political Science major at Spelman, said all they could do was wait until the big news dropped. 

"We've been waiting to talk about this since October, so it's been a long time and just to see everything turn out and come to fruition is just amazing and just honestly an honor and a privilege just to be a part of it in such a legendary brand," she said. 

The collection comes after Ralph Lauren was under fire in 2020 for using a Black fraternity's Phi Beta Sigma Greek letters on $334 chino pants. 

The Ralph Lauren Corp. has apologized for using the lettering and, according to a Morehouse news release, has made a series of commitments to take action on racial equality. 

The new campaign honors the HBCU's contributions to American style by referencing how students would dress in the 1920s to 1950s. 

According to Longino, she's grateful to be a part of history. 

"In terms of the black community in general, like what this means for Ralph Lauren to really pay attention and to write some of the wrongs that he's openly expressed about the brand and American history. I just feel so grateful to be a part of this because it's history," said Longino. Yeah, this is historic, and I just feel like all day yesterday, I just felt weighted with gratitude."

The Spelmanites are happy to see history reflect the Black community. 

"It's a sense of history and a piece of history often left out. We don't see a lot of black vintage looks in fashion. So the fact that Ralph Lauren took on this project to provide the world with a look into what life was like back during these times for black people is really incredible," Jones, a senior International Studies major at Spelman, said.

 The full  Polo Ralph Lauren Exclusively for Morehouse and Spelman Colleges Collection will be available on March 29. An accompanying film, “A Portrait of the American Dream," and a digital yearbook will be released at the end of March.

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