In the summer of 2020, as the Black Lives Matter movement swept America, Ralph Lauren — itself the quintessential American brand — announced far-reaching plans to act in the name of racial equity, from mentorship programs to financial donations.
Specifically, the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation pledged $2 million to a dozen historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in December 2021, including Morehouse College and Spelman College.
Polo Ralph Lauren is deepening its relationship with these two particular institutions through a co-ed capsule collection, designed by Morehouse and Spelman alumni who currently work at the Lauren sub-label.
The collection, which drops on Ralph Lauren's website, the Polo/RL apps, select stores, and Morehouse College and Spelman College Follett campus bookstores March 29, is more than mere clothing: it's a landmark moment in Lauren's legacy.
It's as good a time as any that the ur-American fashion brand usher in an inclusive American dream.
Both headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Morehouse — a men's college founded in 1867 — and Spelman — a women's college founded 1881 — are cultural institutions in their own rights, of course.
The former is the alma matter of Martin Luther King Jr., Spike Lee, and Samuel Jackson while the latter counts Alice Walker, Stacey Abrams, and trailblazing opera legend Mattiwilda Dobbs among its alumni.
Polo Ralph Lauren's Morehouse & Spelman campaign is another first for the fashion brand: every member of the cast, from the creative directors to the photographer to the talent — students, faculty, and alumni of each college — was Black.
The apparel itself is steeped in age-old collegiate fare, inspired by clothing worn by actual Morehouse and Spelman students from the 1920s to the '50s.
Given Lauren's preppy heritage, it's fitting that the stylistic lexicon of Black college students informs the latest Polo line.
“It’s so much more than a portrayal of a collegiate design sensibility," Ralph Lauren himself said in a statement. "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.”
Morehouse's masculine collection includes wool flannel blazers — a nod to the jackets that were gifted to students on their first day — wool sweaters stitched with an "M," and varsity jackets emblazoned with the college's mascot, a maroon tigers.
More feminine items appear in Spelman's collection, appropriately, including silk wrap dresses, pale blue aran sweaters, and Spelman-branded satin varsities.
The looks are captured in an accompanying short film, A Portrait of the American Dream, which premieres on March 28, a day before the collections' release.