Entry #16, November 29, 2010
Article by HBCU Digest:
Answering the call to develop a national pride amongst historically black colleges and universities, Historically Black Apparel is seeking to develop HBCU advocates one t-shirt at a time. With a positive message and a socially-conscious mission, HBAPride is the latest fashion brand to bring HBCU social conscience to the fashionable conscious.
1. Talk about the HBCU ties of your members, and how you all were motivated to create this brand of clothing.
Each of our founders is tied to the HBCU mission. The concept of Historically Black Apparel (HBA) did not begin as a clothing line, but as a social network long before the introduction of Facebook. As a coed at Fisk University, I was passionate about the HBCU experience and I wanted to create a platform where members of these institutions could share their ideals and promote HBCU unity. While members of the HBCU community have institutional pride, there really wasn’t a collective voice. Years later, I shared this idea with my cousin who also graduated from Fisk. We began to conceptualize HBA to promote HBCU pride, power and purpose.
We united with two other friends, one a Tennessee State alumna and another, who didn’t attend an HBCU but is committed to its mission. Together, we established Historically Black Apparel. We keep telling people, you don’t have to be an HBCU alum to believe is our mission. The more, the merrier.
2. What obstacles, if any, have you encountered along the way, logistically and culturally in creating a brand specific to the HBCU experience?
I would say the biggest obstacle to date has been awareness. Even though the HBCU family is everywhere, it’s harder than it looks to reach the entire market of HBCU supporters and there is no real outlet to reach them all. It has not been easy getting the word out to the HBCU community that there is a brand that expresses the collective spirit of HBCUs. Hand in hand with this challenge has been convincing the HBCU community of the importance of expressing our collective pride instead of merely, our various institutional identities.
3. It seems that many young consumers believe there is a fine line between promoting cultural messages through fashion and being “over the top” or “corny.” How does your brand seek to toe this line?
At HBA, we have two commitments. The first is to our mission of employing our apparel as an expression of the widely-held commitment of HBCU supporters to past, present and future relevancy of our schools. The second commitment is to providing fashion-forward apparel that consumers would purchase even if they had no understanding of the HBCU mission, simply because design appeal.
There is nothing corny about the mission and message of our brand. We stand by every design that we create. The reality is that the HBCU community is the best marketer of the good work that HBCUs have and continue to do. It is our job and no one else’s to ensure the future of these institutions that have served and are serving us so well.
4. What is your perspective on today’s fashion culture for minorities? Are we in a good place in representation at the highest and lowest levels of fashion and fashion influence?
Like any other industry, the fashion industry has and continues to be shaped by the talents of minorities. All too often we are unaware that many mainstream commercial brands are driven by African Americans like Victoria Secret’s PINK, which is led by FAMU alumnus Richard Dent III. Of course, we always could be in better and more visible places. But, the concept of “urban” clothing alone proves our ability to influence fashion and culture. Other interest groups have long employed socially-conscious apparel to promote their causes. At HBA, we think it’s high time we did the same for the HBCU mission—only better.
5. What are the future plans for HBA Pride and its brand?
The future of HBA includes growth. First and foremost, we want to produce designs that consistently speak to the HBCU mission. We believe that even individual HBCUs can and should do a better job capturing their spirit. We intend to build a catalogue of clothing options that speak to every facet of HBCU life including working with various organizations within our institutions to produce custom apparel. Ultimately, we want to build relationships with as many like-minded people and entities as possible that promote the cause of the HBCU and who are committed to the preservation of these institutions. We Dare to Dream!