The Polo Ralph Lauren Exclusively for Morehouse and Spelman Colleges Collection (…) extends the authenticity of our brand heritage, writing untold chapters in our storytelling. Our portrait of American style, and our vision of the American dream, would be incomplete without Black experiences like this.by Ralph Lauren
This extract comes from Ralph Lauren’s 27-minute film titled “A Portrait of the American Dream”. It is a homage to the unique collection Ralph Lauren launched in collaboration with two American and historically Black Colleges, the Morehouse and Spelman Colleges. It has been called Polo by Ralph Lauren Exclusively for Morehouse and Spelman Colleges Collection.
The increasing need in fashion to embrace a broader audience has led Ralph Lauren to reconsider its directionality and target. Widely known for representing the Wasp ideal of the American Dream as a luxurious and dreamy-like lifestyle through a mix of Western-style safari and workwear, Ralph Lauren did not contemplate any room for non-whites. This toxic, made-up identity, most convenient for the wealthy, white Americans, has started to be doubted and questioned and thus needed a revision. Ralph Lauren’s manoeuvre has been a re-branding mission for a more inclusive American identity by acknowledging that Black identity has influenced American fashion and thus has played a significant role.
Celebrating a collection that takes inspiration from the sartorial traditions of Black colleges stands for an act of giving voice to Black history. The significance of this act means that Ralph Lauren, a widely recognised White aesthetics, is finally seeing Black identity in the 20s and 50s when IVY leagues were at centre stage and thus put HBCUs in the shade.
Ralph Lauren says, “We had stories left to tell”. This act mirrors America’s long history of indifference towards other identity groups that helped create the melting pot of mixes and culture blends that make America so unique. Highlighting this attempt stands for an act of recognising Black presence and voice.
Ralph Lauren’s act of re-branding by embracing the power of diversity and inclusion is a strategic move in a context where fashion is enhancing its diversity power. But this is a necessary move to favour the brand’s continuity and extension. It can encourage a conversation about a more comprehensive and non-exclusively white American identity on a cultural level.