By Dustin Chandler
A new line of Aggie activewear apparel designed by an alumna of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s fashion merchandising and design program is about to fly off the shelves.
This May, Bohemian fashion and lifestyle retailer Free People launched a line of historically Black college and university (HBCU)-inspired apparel for the company’s School Pride Capsule. N.C. A&T’s designs are the vision of fashion major Samya Gilliam-Frazier ’22.
“I’m so happy with the way the clothes have turned out,” said Gilliam-Frazier. “I’m proud of myself and I feel that my vision, thanks to Free People, turned out exactly the way I imagined.”
Last June, Gilliam-Frazier, a fall graduate in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, worked as a design intern for Free People’s activewear brand FP Movement. She also enrolled in the retailer’s summer class/mentorship opportunity.
During the summer class, the Charlotte, North Carolina native and two other HBCU students were tasked with designing a line of clothing apparel inspired by their respective universities for the company’s School Pride Capsule.
“I designed three pieces: a T-shirt, a pair of pants and a heavyweight jacket,” said Gilliam-Frazier. “Free People wanted to take all the knowledge and representation we have from being HBCU students and add it into a corporate movement activewear line.”
The result: a unisex line of clothes featuring the A&T wordmarks or displaying the Aggie bulldog, ranging from a crewneck-inspired cut-off T-shirt and a quarter-zip hoodie to a short crop pair of sweatpants with “Aggieland” on the side.
“You can wear them when you’re working out or lounging around town,” Gilliam-Frazier said of the clothes. “Students can buy them. Alumni can buy them. I wanted to make them gender neutral and create nice, sellable products.”
The design process included a lot of sketches and a lot of discussion with Free People employees, Frazier said.
“I had plenty of ideas and we cooperatively narrowed them down to three,” she said. “They would tell us, ‘Just let all your creative mojo flow,’ and they would rein us in and clarify what they wanted.”
Elizabeth Newcomb Hopfer, Ph.D., an associate professor in A&T’s fashion program, said she was “happy to see Samya’s smiling face” in the promotional photos for the collection.
“Her success is a testament to her strong drive and dedication to learning and trying new things,” said Newcomb. “I will not forget how she persevered after a serious injury just before the summer she was set to do her required program internship. Though this setback pushed back her graduation to the following summer, it is also what, I believe, opened the doors at Free People for her to be part of summer class.
“Samya stayed committed through her entire academic tenure, and now her A&T family celebrates the release of this assortment with her.”
Since graduating, Gilliam-Frazier has continued a six-month temporary role with Free People and as a stylist at Kate Spade Outlet in downtown Philadelphia.
She was equally appreciative and grateful for her A&T experience.
“The program was so intimate,” said Gilliam-Frazier. “II had the same three or four professors the entire time, so I feel like it helped them understand me and build a relationship, which is crucial when you’re trying to learn. It was Dr. Newcomb who sent me information about the internship right before it closed, and said it was perfect for me. If it hadn’t been for that email, I wouldn’t have gotten the kickstart to the life I have right now.”