Bleacher Report and Social Change Fund United, an organization created by athletes Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade, have teamed to launch a capsule collection celebrating HBCU schools featuring the works of seven Black fashion designers.
The sports media company and the NBA stars tapped designers Maxwell Osborne of Public School, Chris Gibbs of Union L.A., Denim Tears’ Tremaine Emory, Legacy History Pride founder Tahir Murray, Kumasi Sadiki of The Good Company, and Mike Nicholas and Ryan Jackson of Diem and Lfant, respectively, to design apparel for HCBU schools and to celebrate HCBUs in general for Homecoming, the schools’ annual event that was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. The 32-piece collection ranges in price from $15 to $80.
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Sadiki was partnered with Clark Atlanta University, Emory with Morehouse, and Murray with his alma mater Howard. Osborne, who was paired with Jackson State, felt Public School’s ‘We Need Leaders’ mantra could be a call to action for the youth.
Nicholas and Jackson both studied in Florida and therefore were paired with Florida A&M University. The Diem founder, who co-designed an off-white graphic sweatshirt with Jackson’s Lfant, felt it was important to participate in this project because of how it supports HBCUs.
“I didn’t attend an HBCU and as I got older that decision haunts me every now and again,” Nicholas said. “[There’s] something about the history, the pride, the spirit, the networking and close bonds I’ve seen created by friends and family who are HBCU alumni. The role HBCU schools played as part of our fabric as African Americans is vital to the empowerment of our brothers and sisters. Having knowledge of self is key to being grounded and allowing access to boundless possibilities. Some of the world’s greatest came from HBCUs and it was an honor to represent that legacy.”
“Historically Black institutions of higher education teach us about our history while laying the framework for our future,” Jackson added. “Heritage and legacy are two certainties of an education at an HBCU. FAMU is a school steeped in tradition and excellence since 1887. Though we contributed our artistic expressions to this project, we left with so much knowledge and a profound appreciation for this university. As artists we come away understanding that this was a gift given to us.”
Paul chose Gibbs especially for North Carolina A&T.
“I am proud and honored that Union was asked to participate in this capsule,” Gibbs said. “As a Grambling State University alum, I have always appreciated the very special and necessary place the HBCUs provide for our community. At a time when I very much needed to see, feel and appreciate our rich African American culture, GSU helped me find ‘knowledge of self’ and I am happy to share my story and appreciation for HBCUs through our participation in this collection.”
Paul noted that his favorite piece is a shirt featuring a drum major from Diem and Lfant since it evoked the memory of watching the FAMU marching band. “I have a very distinct memory of halftime at Winston-Salem State games,” he said. “I don’t care if you’ve got a cousin or knew someone in the marching band that played the trumpet, drums, trombone, everybody was looking at the drum major. So, to see that drum major on that shirt sort of just took me back.”
The collection launches first on BRShop.com, with special access to each HBCU and discounts for students currently enrolled at the schools, and on Monday, BR will make the collection shoppable on Instagram.
“It’s time to start showing people Historically Black Colleges and Universities have power,” Paul added. “Black students have power. It’s time for them to start flexing. HBCUs aren’t less than. We may be better than.”
Tyler Stewart, Bleacher Report’s vice president of brand and experience, said this initiative is a continuation and extension of the sports media company’s ongoing partnerships with athletes and leagues. Past efforts have included NBA Remix, where NBA jerseys were redone, as well as Dwyane Wade’s Hometown Tour.
“There was a lot of thought that went into this,” he said. “These designers are driving the culture forward. One of the most important partners we worked with is Corey Arvinger [of Support Black Colleges]. He was a guiding light making sure everything we did was true to the ethos of the schools. When we have the moment and platform to share stories, we like to do as much as we can. We want to shine a light and lift every voice.”
Arvinger, through his project Support Black Colleges, also partnered on the HCBU Collection for this project, producing a hoodie that says, “Support Black Colleges.”
“It was important for us at Support Black Colleges to participate in this collaboration because the main goal for us is to spread awareness about HBCUs,” he said. “What better way to do that than to team up with the most engaged sports media brand? This collection pays homage to HBCU culture, tradition and legacy and will spread awareness among tons of people.”
Stewart said Bleacher Report and Social Change Fund United first partnered in 2020 on a capsule collection, with proceeds supporting the organization, which was established to liberate Black people and advocate for Indigenous people and communities of color through policy solutions, community representation and narrative change. Stewart declined to share figures but said the capsule, which was produced “on demand,” was a success for the company.
Bleacher Report also has projects slated for this NBA season — the league’s 75th anniversary — as well as the NHL, a new partner.