Black-Owned HBCU Clothing Brand Now in Target Stores

Dainelle Riley and Stephanie Walters’ HBCU Culture Shop is the first Black-owned HBCU clothing company to be sold in Target stores.

The HBCU Culture Shop is a clothing line that celebrates historically black schools and universities and black history. “HBCUs are a part of black history yesterday and today,” Riley, the company’s creative director and founder, told WFLA.

She established the shop in 2017, though she has dreamt of it since she was 8 years old. She said, “I wanted to be an advertising executive when I was little. It was odd because people would be like, not a firefighter or a police officer? My dad would take me to Times Square and I was like, I want to make those. I was just so fascinated by all of the ads.”

She stated that her interest in HBCUs began when she was a child since her parents, particularly her father, who was a civil rights warrior, attended an HBCU and educated her on the significance of the schools. She followed in his footsteps, attending Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee and graduating with a degree in graphic design.

She began her career in corporate America there, only to be hampered by her mother’s stage 3 cancer diagnosis. Graphic design, she claims, kept her happy. Her pals requested her to design them some t-shirts for their FAMU homecoming in 2016, and she agreed. It was an instant success. Her friends were overwhelmingly supportive.

Through this, she gave birth to the HBCU Culture Shop, however it wasn’t an easy route. Even though they self-invested $10,000 in the firm, financial barriers stood in her way.

Riley also said she encountered racial challenges. “I remember when we would do pitch events and I would be pitching the culture shop and people would say that’s niche or it’s not viable and I would say you don’t understand the depth of support HBCUs have,” she expressed.

However, her hard work soon paid off as celebrities such as Jidenna and Diddy began to wear her brand. During the COVID-19 epidemic, the HBCU Culture Shop received seven grants from companies such as Beygood, Paypal, and American Express. They eventually cooperated with organizations such as the Atlanta Hawks and the US Open.

“American Express actually selected us for the top 100 female-founded brands,” Riley said. “The U.S. Open wanted to do this HBCU live event where they wanted to highlight the contributions of some of their greatest black players and HBCU players, so I did the branding for that and a pop-up clothing line, and I’ve been with the U.S. Open the past two year.”

They now have a collaboration with Target.Riley described how she and her team were selling at an HBCU event in Birmingham, the originator of which is connected to the US Open. She revealed that her products piqued the curiosity of a Target buyer. They suggested she establish an HBCU line at Target.

After speaking with roughly five Target buyers in May 2022, Target eventually stated that they wished to proceed. The HBCU Culture Shop is now available in more than 20 Target stores around the country.

“I’m enjoying the impact of what it is we are actually doing. What I really hope is people are able to resonate with HBCUs or even feel inspired to look more into HBCUs. This is really for the culture. This is really a labor of love” Riley remarked.

Written by PH

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