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“When we start putting together a collection, I make sure we have our HBCUs first in mind”

Whether you’re an HBCU student or alum, you know the importance of repping your alma mater—especially during homecoming season. Collegiate apparel brand Tradition has been making that homage as stylish as ever since its launch five years ago, specializing in timeless threads honoring black colleges before expanding to non-HBCUs.

But the brand—co-founded by Gerard Murray and Carol Murray, parents to two Howard University students—has been sure to give back, too. Tradition is now a sponsor for the HBCU Alumni Alliance, contributing to a scholarship fund that is approaching $1 million and donating 10 percent of HBCU apparel sales to the respective school.

“I really give that credit to HBCUAA—we both were longing for this type of partnership because we have common goals and that’s the HBCUs,” said Gerard Murray, who became a streetwear legend in the ‘90s with his School of Hard Knocks clothing line, which celebrated his hometown borough of Queens. “We always try to make sure we make something age-appropriate.. MASS APPEAL spoke to Gerard Murray about his ever-expanding clothing line and the importance of giving back.

You provide apparel for more than 30 colleges. Are you looking to expand?

Yes, actually to date we’re at about 35 schools. We started a little over five years ago with five schools, so it is near and dear to our hearts to service HBCU schools. Since then we have grown, taking on non-HBCUs, such as Villanova, Temple, University of Maryland, and Virginia Tech. It’s a mix, but I always say when we start putting together a collection I make sure we have our HBCUs first in mind. Then we go to the various book stores and our retailers.

Can you describe some of the newer style elements to the new collection of Tradition?

Yeah! When we start designing we always try to make sure we make something more age-appropriate. For example, for something as simple as a sweater, we always say we can find an incoming freshman to a 50-plus-year-old proud alum wearing our stuff. It’s all built from the sweaters—the sweaters have always been detailed with big buttons, cable knits. This year one of the features is the cable knit, full zip hoodie sweater that we call The Kyle. All of the names of the gear have been after sitcoms that we grew up on, so this year is Living Single. We have The Kyle, The Sinclair Tunic and the women’s double-breasted sweater.  Going into 2018 it’s more of a cut-and-sew piece fleece. When people look at it I want them to say, “I never seen something like that with my school on it before.” It should be like that across the board for every school.

What encouraged the more formal give back and the public give back for Tradition?

It’s really hard for a small company to survive in the collegiate license realm. For our five-year anniversary, we wanted to do something a little different. Since I have a daughter who just graduated and a son who’s a current Bison, I see how hard it is for students to sustain in college financially and so we wanted to give  back in a big way. We partnered with the HBCU Alumni Alliance, which has chapters in D.C. and Atlanta. 

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