Chris Latimer is bringing back an early 1990s HBCU apparel brand, thanks in part to donations from LL Cool J and radio personality Charlamagne Tha God. African American College Alliance has raised more than $100,000 to relaunch the popular clothing line featuring historically black institutions.
LoHud.com reports Latimer currently has the brand in production after it exceeded an initial goal to raise $100,000 on fundraising website Kickstarter. In total, $108, 273 has been raised by 734 donors — some of them famous. Rapper-actor LL Cool J gave a single donation of $15,000. Daymond John of ABC’s “Shark Tank” gave $5,000 as did Charlamagne of New York City’s “The Breakfast Club” radio show.
“The important thing for our brand is that we make it cool for the kids again just like it was in the early ’90s,” said Latimer to LoHud. “And part of the way we can do that is by having an assortment of colorways that go back to the sneaker craze that these kids are wearing right now. Along with that connection, it brings the Black colleges along the way, and it brings higher education as well. And it makes for this being just as cool as the kids’ sneakers are.”
After reaching the first goal of raising money through Kickstarter, Latimer says he wants to upgrade AACA’s designs to “make it cool for the kids.” After that, the aim is to have the products in stores by August.
Established in 1991, AACA has been worn by everyone from Will Smith on his hit sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to Queen Latifah on “Living Single.” Mary J. Blige and Russell Simmons also sported the street wear line.
“Russell gave me love, and he was developing Phat Farm when he gave me love,” Latimer told The Urban Wall Street Project in 2008. “But he was wearing AACA at the end of every Def Comedy Jam, you know, in that first season.”
The Kickstarter campaign says the line was birthed from the late ’80s and early ’90s hip-hop craze of wearing bright colors from colleges like the Syracuse Orangemen and North Carolina Tar Heels. Since historically Black institutions weren’t represented, the African American College Alliance was born to bring them awareness. The line featured colleges like Florida A&M and Howard University. Seven to 13 percent of royalties generated from the line was donated to HBCUs.
“I’ve done this before and created an excitement about HBCUs across the country,” Latimer says to LoHud.
He told the website he wants to continue the legacy of the retro brand’s place in hip-hop.
“We dressed Will Smith, Queen Latifah and LL Cool J,” he says. “We don’t think there’s a difference now dressing Drake, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar and Future.”
He hopes the brand is around for the next 20 years and that it will encourage kids to go to college.