NSU Grad Makes History With HBCU Clothing Line Landing In Department Stores


Tones of Melanin is HBCU pride meets Black creativity. Get on board.

For Ashley Jones, owner and creative director of Tones of Melanin, her student experience at Virginia’s Norfolk State University saw a lack of HBCU representation. She wanted to fill that gap, so she began selling t-shirts out of her backpack. After graduating in 2015, her mission to bring HBCU culture to the masses began with the launch of her apparel company in 2017.

“When I went into my bookstore, I didn’t really see anything that represented my population. I really want to highlight the HBCU culture,” Jones said, per WTOP News.

Jones leverages her background in graphic design, creative directing, and marketing to shed light on historically Black colleges/universities nationwide.

According to the owner, “Tones of Melanin aims to create clothing to bring awareness to HBCUs. We are not only an ally to HBCUs but also a modern-day revenue-generating marketing tool,” as stated on her LinkedIn profile.

Courtesy of Tones of Melanin

From Florida A&M University “FAMU LUX” book bags to Virginia State University trucker hats, Jones’ clothing line boasts a wide inventory of HBCU culture-inspired items. In addition, Tones of Melanin offers summer shorts, jerseys, hoodies, and shirts, ranging from $20 to $100.

Courtesy of Tones of Melanin

Since its inception, the clothing line has taken off. Students, alumni, and HBCU supporters can purchase Tone of Melanin in Fanatics, Belk department stores, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and selected HBCU bookstores. This achievement makes her the only Black and women-owned HBCU company in any of the aforementioned major retail stores, according to HBCU Lifestyle.

In the future, Jones hopes to see her Tones of Melanin in additional retail stores and all HBCU bookstores as she champions diversity representation. She also wants her vision and creations to transcend fads and become a “permanent” staple within the HBCU community.

She said, “I feel like we have our own community and I’m making that bigger for the world to see.”

As a creative, Jones advises young creatives to “persevere and do your research. Be creative, that’s us; we’re creative as a people.”

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