Ethical Campus Clothing Line Expands to Berklee
Globally-minded Berklee students now have a chance to show their school pride, fashion sense, and ethics all at once through School House clothing’s new line, available at the college’s bookstore.
Masterminded by 26-year-old Duke University graduate Rachel Weeks after she spent time in Sri Lanka researching socially responsible apparel manufacturing initiatives, School House describes itself as a “fashion-forward, socially responsible collegiate apparel brand” on the company’s Facebook page.
“School House apparel and accessories are the synthesis of fair labor and fashion in the college market,” the company writes on Facebook. “We pay premium prices and work one-on-one with suppliers and apparel workers in our facilities to ensure everyone is paid fairly, treated equally and instructed with integrity.”
The company partners with Barnes & Noble college bookstores and “cherry picks” the schools for which they want to design, Weeks said. “We were so excited about working with Berklee because with a music school, there’s so much that can be done in terms of working with logos and trademarks that didn’t really exist before.”
When starting a line for a new school, School House learns “as much as we can about that school and their culture,” Weeks said, sometimes polling students or asking for insight. “As we develop a presence on campus, that’s something that we hope will grow,” she said.
The company’s resident fashion designer, Emily Raffensperger, then designs the prints for each line. For Berklee, “urban-inspired music prints and more traditional line sheets” were her main muses, Weeks said. “[The designs are] where School House can shine, and we like to work with schools that allow us to define their brand in a new way.”
School House apparel is currently available at over 100 different campuses, including Boston University, Harvard, MIT, and Northeastern, and will be available on the company's redesigned website, launching next week. Weeks attributes the line’s success in Boston to “the quality of the product and our designs,” and to the city’s “urban student demographic, [including] more trend-savvy, fashion-savvy college kids.”
“I really feel like the Boston student has really gotten and embraced our brand,” she said.
While Weeks would like to add more schools to School House’s list of clients, “what I really hope is that we’re able to develop bigger collections for the schools we already work with,” she said. “We’re less concerned with being in 2,000 colleges and more interested in having a presence and a real connection with the schools that we’re already working with.”
To make that connection when the company was just starting out, Weeks would set out on long road trips -- her, her car, and a sample rack, she said -- or speak to fashion schools and entrepreneur clubs to promote the brand.
“It was crazy, but great because I got to be in all of our stores and really understand their unique retail environments,” Weeks said.
But with the company’s new marketing and PR director, Melissa Dohmen, on board, “the nature of our marketing is going to change pretty dramatically,” Weeks said.
“In this industry, so many of the brands treat every school the same,” she said. “I really want School House to buck that trend and treat each campus like the unique market that it is.”
Photos by School House
By Angela Stefano -- It's "Ang," if you please -- or, alternately, Bill, Penny Lane, or (begrudgingly) Angus to some. I've been with TNGG since the site started and am now the TNGG Boston editor for Boston.com. I graduated from Boston University's College of Communication in 2009 and am a huge fan of live music, hockey, and Thai food. I'm also a bit of a klutz, but that's only because my mind and body are always going in approximately a zillion separate directions. Twitter: @amstefano988
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