HBCU Women Alum Represent with Circa 1837 Designs

January 10, 2012  |  

For the HBCU graduates who choose to settle far away from their alma mater, it may be hard to find the right college apparel to rock in support of their favorite school. According to Xconomy, more than half of all African American professionals are graduates of HBCUs, and for Howard University graduate Clover McFadden, they represented a huge untapped market.

“Very few individual universities put their bookstores online, and you don’t get a full selection of apparel,” McFadden said to Xconomy. “There are very few people in the HBCU space, and it’s always apparel for men.”

Shortly after graduating, McFadden went back home to Detroit where she too experienced difficulty finding apparel that showcased her university. Then she heard about the Detroit business incubator financially backed by Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans.

“I thought, ‘That’s it!’ ” McFadden said to Xconomy. “I could see (Detroit’s) turnaround starting to happen and I wanted to be a part of it.”

The HU grad started Circa 1837 in October. The website provides women with a space to find clothing that represents their prospective HBCUs, historically black sororities and several service and social organizations.

Circa 1837 doesn’t just provide “sweatshirts with big logos.” McFadden’s business creates subtle, after-work appropriate attire from cardigans, jackets, yoga pants and tops that currently showcase 28 universities and two sororities.

Since its inception, McFadden divulges that the response has been “great.” She’s had over 17,000 visitors and sold over 700 pieces.

“We’re also getting good feedback—we now offer extended sizes and an expanded range of colors,” she said.

All of the gear is officially licensed. McFadden says that her future goals include extending Circa 1837 to also offer men and children clothing in the upcoming months. She also plans to secure licenses from all 105 HBCUs across the country so that no HBCU alum will need to worry about finding apparel again.

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