NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Norfolk State University grad hopes to represent all historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in major department stores.

Ashley Jones believes ‘HBCUs do it better!’ “It’s not just going to the school, you have the band, it is so many things that go into the HBCU culture. It’s just like a family reunion. There is so many different parts to it than just going to school. It’s a network. It’s a whole experience. We really want to portray that to the world!”

She started her own graphic design business while in undergrad at NSU. “I started doing stuff with the university for different organizations and then it just all kind of transpired.”

Then she created a high-quality streetwear line, called Tones of Melanin. The clothing line celebrates all shades of brownness. “It’s a representation of the African American community,” Jones said.

The line includes options for all ages and incomes. Most of the items are embroidered to honor Black colleges across the nation.

“For our ancestors, these are the only institutions that they could go to. Let’s respect that legacy. They are here for a reason.”

In just three months, her line was picked up by several big box stores.

“We’re almost at the 200 mark. We’re in Dick’s Sporting Goods. We’re in Belk. We’re on and we’re in 18 HBCU bookstores.”

She credits the pandemic and the election of Vice President Kamala Harris, a proud Howard University alum. “It’s a resurgence, kind of a rebirth of that HBCU wave that we saw in the 90s. When the stars were wearing them on TV. It’s another resurgence, but I hope that one stays.”

Jones is committed to keeping Black colleges funded; a percentage of her sales go to the schools. “A lot of phenomenal people have gone through these institutions, so let’s make you the next person.”

Her team has a license to sell with 40 HBCUs. The group plans to partner with all 107 Black schools. 

Check out more from WAVY-TV 10’s interview with Ashley Jones, Tones of Melanin owner, in the video above.