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Ralph Lauren debuts collection inspired by Spelman, Morehouse

The vintage-inspired line is in partnership with Morehouse College and Spelman College.

ATLANTA — One of the nation's most iconic designers has teamed up with notable Georgia historically Black colleges and universities to create a vintage line paying homage to America and its traditions.

Calling it a historic collaboration, Ralph Lauren debuted its partnership with Morehouse and Spelman Colleges on Tuesday. The designer is quoted calling the new line "our portrait of American style, and our vision of the American dream, would be incomplete without Black experiences like this."

Ralph Lauren's first-of-its-kind collaboration features a wool flannel blazer, which is a symbol of a "Morehouse man" and the garment traditionally given to students during their first days on campus, according to a Morehouse news release. For more than a century, Spelman women have upheld a "respectable and conservative" white attire tradition which is honored in the brand's new vintage collection.

"This collection honors the rich heritages and sartorial traditions of historically Black colleges and universities through the lens of two iconic educational institutions," the brand wrote on the collection's website. "The collection celebrates each college's contribution to American style, inspired by vintage campus wear from the 1920s to the 1950s, while building on our broader commitment to support HBCU students."

Morehouse College celebrated the partnership, saying the purpose of the collection was executed even behind the scenes. 

"Conceptualized and designed by Morehouse and Spelman alumni at Ralph Lauren, 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," Morehouse said in a news release.

The collection comes after Ralph Lauren was under fire in 2020 for using a Black fraternity's symbol on pants. The Ralph Lauren Corp. has since apologized to Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., which was founded at HBCU Howard University, for using their widely recognized Greek letters on $334 chino pants.

Following the incident, Ralph Lauren made a series of commitments to take action on racial equality, according to a Morehouse news release. Ralph Lauren's Global Citizenship and Sustainability also outlines collaboration and belonging, communication and messaging, and celebration and recognition as part of its pillars in incorporating diversity and inclusion mission. These efforts are also leveraging the brand on how the American Dream is portrayed.

Ralph Lauren is putting its plans into action in 2022 with this HBCU collaboration and its accompanying film, “A Portrait of the American Dream." The film is a "commemorative yearbook that details 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," as described by Morehouse.

The yearbook will be available digitally alongside the film on March 29 on RalphLauren.com, along with the collection.

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