Virginia designer’s HBCU clothing brand lands in department stores

Tones of Melanin was started by an HBCU grad to create streetwear that would resonate with those who attended the schools. ((Courtesy Tones of Melanin))
When Ashley Jones finished school at Norfolk State, she wanted to create gear that represented the culture and expression of people who went to HBCUs. ((Courtesy Tones of Melanin))
Now Jones’ gear can be found in bookstores at HBCUs around the country. ((Courtesy Tones of Melanin))
Her clothing, which includes jackets and reversible shorts is also available at a major department and sporting goods store, as well as online. ((Courtesy Tones of Melanin))

Ashley Jones graduated from Norfolk State University back in 2015 and decided to focus on filling the gap when it came to fashionable college clothing. She launched Tones of Melanin 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,” said Jones, referring to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Her clothing line offers everything from reversible shorts and jackets to hoodies and shirts with prices ranging from $20 to $100.

The line eventually caught the attention of major retailers. Her creations are now in Belk department stores, HBCU bookstores and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“It all happened really fast. I’m hoping to get more stores in the years to come,” added Jones. “I feel like we have our own community and I’m making that bigger for the world to see.”

Jones said the murder of George Floyd contributed to her business receiving more recognition and support alongside the social justice movement. HBCUs have also received more attention in the last few years.

“I’m hoping this isn’t just a fad, I’m hoping it’s a permanent thing. We’re adequately trained and the education is top-notch,” added Jones.

She says she hopes to see more young creatives stay true to their vision. Her advice? “Persevere and do your research. Be creative, that’s us, we’re creative as a people.”

The items are also available online at

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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