Putting My Ass on the Line to Save Harvard

Harvard’s financial troubles have been well publicized. The university also made news several months ago when it was announced that it had licensed its name for a contemporary fashion collection called Harvard Yard, and was criticized for selling out its name for a frivolous new revenue stream.

Earlier this week, Wearwolf Group, the company that holds the license, invited me to the ENK menswear trade show to view the collection.

While chatting with the founder and checking out the clothes in the trade show booth, I noticed a piece of marketing collateral sitting on the table. It was a montage of vintage images meant to give potential buyers the vibe of the collection. I recognized a number of images from Ivy-Style, then went back to chatting with the founder, when suddenly I did a double take because right next to Aga Khan is my madras-clad posterior.

It’s true: Harvard is using my ass to sell clothing. I should be getting a cut off the back end. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

More on the collection and trade show in the next post. Image graciously provided by Harvard Yard at Ivy-Style’s humble request.

14 Comments on "Putting My Ass on the Line to Save Harvard"

  1. I spoke to Jeff for a long time at ENK and came away with a lot of questions. The clothes look great, but they have no designer right now. The name angle is interesting, but they don’t publicize that Harvard’s cut goes to student F.A. The lsit of conundrum’s go on. The sky is the limit for these cats, but they need some vision. Or just a consultant. Maybe you can do it. Maybe I can do it.

  2. Based on what they have so far, I think they’re going to find it a very difficult market.

  3. I’m not sure what they think the selling point will be. It is not exactly a heritage brand; it lacks the credibility that comes with being an updated line for a much older brand (e.g. BB Black Fleece or LL Bean Signature). Its tailored clothing is produced by a company whose own website proudly espouses the maxim “minimum process. maximum productivity” (presumably by “process” they mean trivial matters like cutting, sewing, overall attention to craftsmanship and detail). The whole enterprise seems to be based upon a leap of faith that Harvard’s imprimatur is enough to move garments. It lacks the price point and the distribution network of a J.Crew, but it also lacks high-end designer appeal that would make the brand sell at a Barney’s or a Neiman Marcus. If I were their CEO the first thing on my list would be to approach an established designer working in a similar market and aesthetic. “Scott Sternberg for Harvard Yard” is something I would consider purchasing. “Zach DeLuca for Harvard Yard,” even more so.

  4. On the second thought the three of us could do it. Start a design company, the___ collective, make some business cards, approach them aggressively and tell them that we have the vision they need. I’m only half kidding. And that percentage is rapidly decreasing.

  5. LAS, you should’ve looked me up. Would’ve been fun to walk the show together. Will you be at Fashion Week?

    Zach and I already talked about pitching them.

    Nordstrom has bought it and it’s supposed to be in stores March 1.

    The only way I see the name benefitting the clothes is if it’s used ironically, since we live in an ironic age. Unfortunately the tone of the collection is very serious, and the clothes are too close to other things already firmly established in the market.

    The fabrics are Italian and the clothes are made in Portugal.

    The clothes bear no relation to the marketing collateral bearing the picture of my ass.

  6. Sex sells, clearly.

  7. Christian- Unfortunately I will not be at fashion week and was in the city for such a short while that I didn’t make enough of an effort to connect with all the bloggers who were out in full force. Next time I’m in the area I’ll for sure shoot you a holler and hopefully we can chop it up.

  8. Well Christian, I have to admit that it was not your butt that caught my eye but the 29-29 shirt. Fantastic game. As a Princetonian, It is way to easy to disparage Harvard and the underachieving thought processes that brought this line to the world before it was ready… So I will not go down that rabbit hole.
    As always, I enjoy your take on things.

    Always Bumby

  9. How many more “preppy” clothing brands need to exist? You need to do something different if you’re going to do preppy, particularly if you are going against people who own the market like Polo or J. Crew. It’d be like wanting to start a national coffee brand – Starbucks and Dunkin have it covered, so what do you bring to the table that’s different?

    What about price points at the H&M level and catering to the university students themselves? And don’t give me that bull of Take-Ivy-everyone-who-attends-the-Ivies-are-trust-fund-babies. They’re not, trust me. That Harvard Beats Yale shirt should be $10. H&M makes bank. That’s my two cents…

    thelumpypudding.blogspot.com

  10. Fair points in your second paragraph, Dale, but your first assumes that it’s a “preppy” brand, and that’s not a word that came to mind when I viewed the collection.

    As I mentioned in the comment above, the vintage photo montage and the actual collection bear little resemblance.

  11. Ah – I see now within the next post what you mean. I was afraid it’d be some Vineyard Vines-esque nonsense. Harvard Yard seems to get at something that evokes heritage and legacy, something heartier I guess. They did a good job – I’m hankering for that plaid overcoat personally. Can’t wait to see it in stores. Do they offer student discounts with ID? ; )

  12. Gregorius Mercator | January 24, 2010 at 6:51 pm |

    Financial troubles, my left foot. Their endowment per student is still more than 36 times that of my own Alma Mater without breaking a sweat. They had a bad year. So did everyone’s 401(k), but I’ve seen 401(k)s rebound 30% this year. Surely Harvard can match that.

  13. Christian,
    I have told you time and time again to not associate with
    that ‘school’…lol

    Sorry to hear about you being utilised without your prior
    consent…

    Boola – Boola

  14. Christian,

    How dare you consider ‘pitching’ them without even the slightest
    request for my assistance. I teach branding at Parsons and
    Columbia for God’s Sake!!!!!!!

    Boola – Boola

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