When Ashley Jones, a graduate of Norfolk State University (NSU), first launched Tones of Melanin in 2017, she had the goal of filling a gap in the fashion industry and on HBCU (historically Black colleges and universities) campuses.
When she went to the bookstore at NSU, she didn’t feel like any of the paraphernalia represented her style. With that in mind, she set out to create an HBCU-centered streetwear brand that featured her alma mater and all Black institutions, including the Greek-letter fraternities and sororities known as the Divine Nine.
Tones of Melanin offers licensed HBCU apparel including jerseys, hats, shorts, T-shirts, joggers, hoodies and sweatshirts in trendy, one-of-a-kind designs. Prices range from $20 to $100.
Jones said within months of launching, the idea proved to be fruitful as major retailers began to call. Today, Tones of Melanin products can be found at Fanatics, Belk, Dick’s Sporting Goods and 18 HBCU bookstores.
“Tones of Melanin’s goal is to keep infiltrating a collegiate fashion market that concentrates on your much larger institutions, such as Duke, Harvard, Yale and others,” Jones said.
There’s also a philanthropic angle to the clothing brand, she added. Tones of Melanin aims to provide career opportunities for HBCU students and graduates while also being philanthropic.
Jones said to date, they have donated over $50,000 to HBCU causes.
“Tones of Melanin is more than just a T-shirt or hoodie,” she said. “We’re committed to keeping HBCUs open. Through apparel marketing, we’re helping HBCUs further their marketing and we’re doing it in style. Giving you high-quality, licensed HBCU clothing at an affordable price is our mission.”