Fashion merchandising and design major Mya Harris models the flannel shirt she designed for Urban Outfitters’s Summer Class internship program. Her collection of six pieces of clothing pays tribute to N.C. A&T’s cultural history.

In June 2022, fashion merchandising and design major Mya Harris flew to Philadelphia to attend a 10-week internship with apparel company Urban Outfitters. This fall, the result of that experience – a line of clothing paying tribute to N.C. A&T’s cultural history – hit the shelves.

“A few sizes sold out in 10 days!” said Harris, a senior in the fashion merchandising and design program in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. “For that to happen so quickly is great.”

Harris is one of five students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country who interned for UO’s Summer Class ‘22. Urban Outfitters asked its student participants to design an exclusive apparel and accessories assortment, inspired by their university, for its annual Capsule Collection. Harris is the second N.C. A&T student to design for this collection; in 2021, fashion major U’lia Hargrove designed her own line of Aggie-inspired apparel for the Summer Class’s inaugural program in 2021.  In 2022, Samya Gilliam-Frazier, another alumna of the fashion merchandising and design department, designed a clothing line for Bohemian fashion and lifestyle retailer Free People.

“Before I interned for UO, I was just kind of messing around with different internships,” said Harris. “My professor, Dr. [Elizabeth] Newcomb, told me about the opportunity with Urban Outfitters and said I’d be a great fit. Fortunately, I applied on the last day before the deadline.”

Harris began the conceptual process for designing her line of clothes under the guidance of UO mentors.

“In the beginning, Urban Outfitters gave us free reign,” said Harris. “There were a lot of things that I wanted to touch on, but they made changes based on the buyer’s perspective to make sure that we were not only reaching our core HBCU audience, but reaching the urban audience as well. It was definitely a collaborative effort.”

There are six pieces in Harris’ line: a flannel shirt, a bomber jacket, jeans, a trucker hat, and a scarf. Each is unique in its depiction of the university and its history. For Harris, that meant digging through N.C. A&T’s photo records and archives for inspiration.

“For the flannel shirt, I went deep into looking for something that not a lot of people had seen,” said Harris. “I designed the shirt from images taken at a game that I found in the 1982 yearbook. Aggie Pride is the obvious message and people had it on their signs. I wanted to show that this is nothing new. This is something that we’ve been doing since 1891.”

Harris collaborated with graphic design student Erica Funderburk to pay homage to N.C. A&T Homecomings of the past with a vintage t-shirt with cartoon-like graphics on the front and a Candyland-inspired layout of the university campus on the back.

“A lot of people know that we’re the largest HBCU in the country, and I wanted to do something out of the ordinary to play off the campus landmarks. Playful, but vintage.”

Harris’s bomber jacket hones in on the historic value of the university’s name changes.

“It shows how dynamic we are and how we’ve grown as a university from the name we had in 1891 to now,” she said. The sleeve has a “fact sheet” to help customers understand “why our university is so special,” she said.

Harris’ line launched on the digital marketplace at Urban Outfitters’ main website on Oct. 17. She was elated but knew of its launch well in advance.

“We received the news in the summer,” said Harris. “I tried so hard to keep it a secret. I think I managed to do well. We flew out in late September to take photos and see the designs for ourselves.”

Instructors in the fashion department, such as associate professor Elizabeth Newcomb-Hopfer, Ph.D., praised Harris’s ability to merge her vision with the UO brand.

“We teach students about the complexities involved in product development across the supply chain, but the teaching comes to life when students work through this transformation in their internships,” she said.

For Harris, this opportunity meant keeping a promise she made to herself when she first arrived on campus.

“I said this in my freshman year, and I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I said, ‘I’m going to leave my mark on my university,’ ” Harris said. “I feel like Urban Outfitters’ Summer Class has allowed me to do that.”

To view Mya Harris’s line and the full Summer Class ‘22 collection, go to Proceeds from this year’s summer class will support a $55k donation to participating historically black colleges and universities, according to Urban Outfitters’ website.