How a Howard University senior made a family clothing business his legacy – The Undefeated

It was 1966 in the boroughs of Queens, New York. Ortner “Von” Murray had just immigrated from Trinidad and Tobago to enable himself and his family to have a better life. His dream was to pursue a career in business.

Almost 55 years later, his grandson Tahir H. Murray is pursuing the same dream and has created a clothing line dedicated to the historically black college and university experience (HBCU).

Murray is a 21-year-old senior at Howard University who switched from studying his father and grandfather’s clothing store to wearing his own creative designs by NBA all-star Chris Paul to working with Nike before joining one this spring Bachelor’s degree in Marketing.

Murray’s love for clothes is in Murray’s genes. His grandfather opened a shoe workshop with his brother and worked as a shoemaker who repaired women’s and evening shoes. This store then turned into a sneaker store when Murray’s grandfather went into the business with his son Gerard, Murray’s father. The franchise became a second home for Murray, who remembered going to the family business every day after school growing up in Queens.

The Murray family has been an entrepreneur for three generations.

Murray family

“My grandfather and father taught me the passion, drive, and excitement for the business at a young age, but only for the Queens, New York community where the store was located,” said Murray.

Murray’s family later started a clothing brand called School of Hard Knocks, a continuation of the sneaker store founded by his father and grandfather in 1987. The excitement of being with the family business sparked Murray’s interest in becoming a third generation entrepreneur.

Later, after Murray’s family moved to Atlanta, his father started the clothing brand Tradition Ever Since in 2012. Murray got his first taste of HBCU culture at the age of 12 while attending homecomers, tap shows, trade fairs, and fashion shows with his father. The experience cemented his desire to combine his love of fashion and HBCUs.

“He never pushed the business on me, but I just wanted to work with my father,” said Murray. “I just grew up passionate about what he did in the industry he was in and absorbed almost all of the information.”

When Murray watched his father interact with the salespeople at those fashion shows, he was able to make his own connections with the businessmen and later found that he had his earliest experience of networking.

As Murray got older, he began promoting his father’s brand on social media and marketing the concept of HBCU fashion and lifestyle. The worlds came together when Murray reached Howard.

Murray saw an opportunity on campus and started selling his idea of ​​HBCU clothing, wearing some of the hats the tradition has always had on campus.

“I had a couple of hats from my father that I wore. People would see it, but people didn’t know I was part of it or my father’s business, ”Murray said. “When I told my dad that I was ready to get the business going and anyway help out if I could, I started doing photo shoots on campus. When I started doing photo shoots, I was able to network with videographers, photographers and models, which can be found in abundance at Howard. “

The brand continued to grow, but Gerard Murray decided to retire in 2019. Murray wanted to continue his father’s work in the college market, but upgrade it with his own brand. The summer before his junior year with Howard, he created LHP: Legacy History Pride. He chose the name to honor his third generation entrepreneurial roots and to recognize all of the work his grandfather and family had done, particularly within the HBCU community.

LHP is not just about HBCUs, it also includes a line inspired by organizations with Greek letters. The HBCU designs developed by Murray were soon seen across the country.

Celebrities like Paul, NFL quarterback Cam Newton, and other high profile names sported Murray’s new brand.

Paul’s team contacted Murray while looking for HBCU gear Paul could wear during the 2020 NBA playoffs. Several members of Paul’s family visited HBCUs, including his parents who were visiting Winston-Salem State. Because of this, he has always been a strong proponent and supporter of HBCUs.

Murray’s design of “Spelhouse” was one of the many HBCU-inspired pieces Paul wore when the playoffs kicked off due to the pandemic in the NBA bubble. Before Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs, Paul walked through the tunnel wearing “SPELHOUSE” which could be seen on both the long-sleeved sweatshirt and the gray shorts. “Spelhouse” is a common term used by students and alumni of Spelman and Morehouse colleges to describe the connection between the two HBCUs.

“We decided to use the tunnel as an opportunity not only to support black designers, small businesses and underrepresented designers, but also to highlight and reinforce the voices of historically black colleges and universities,” said Paul’s stylist Courtney Dion Mays. “We really wanted to use fashion as a platform to speak as a concept and to breathe life into the conversations that weren’t really going on.”

Mays said they spent a lot of time contacting black designers looking for the perfect outfit Paul would wear in the tunnel. As Paul’s stylist for more than a decade when she came across Murray’s brand, she knew it would be a perfect match for Paul.

Knowing Paul would wear work Murray created, a social media binge sent him to find photos.

“When I tell you, I was on her Instagram like every day, looking at her story and trying to see what Chris wears for each game. It was so real, ”said Murray. “The first fit he wore was the Howard jacket and shorts. I saw that and said, ‘Wow, that was crazy.’ Just knowing that LHP was in the NBA bubble in Orlando was just overwhelming. It meant so much to me and it meant so much to the Howard community, the HBCU community. “

Murray’s work has also been recognized by Nike and has been featured among several other creatives from HBCUs. Nike Inc. released this campaign statement:

A group of Nike teammates worked together to bring #Yardrunners to life to further raise the voices and achievements by students and graduates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Through #Yardrunners, this Nike team – led by Nike employees who are also HBCU alumni – helped celebrate the importance of HBCUs to the black community and their importance in promoting American culture and change. “

With the recognition of Nike, the circle came full. Ortner Murray’s business in the ’90s was the first Black-owned company to have a Nike account in the U.S., the family said. Tahir Murray’s opportunity at Nike was a moment his grandfather wouldn’t see.

“Oh man. It was emotional on my father’s side, who just passed away [April 2020], unfortunately from the coronavirus. We’re all a close family, ”said Gerard Murray.

The Nike opportunity and Murray brand’s NBA presence brought a lot of joy, but it wasn’t without controversy.

Not long after Paul was spotted on “Spelhouse” during the 2020 NBA playoffs, Murray and his team took steps to get the term branded.

“When we saw how much it exploded, we thought we had to do something to protect and own the rights before big corporations or people outside of the culture try to take over and make money on something that doesn’t belong to them . ” “Said Murray.

However, when reports of the trademark application surfaced on social media in January, many were not enthusiastic about the idea. They said Murray had no right to protect a term from a community he was not a member of.

However, Murray said people were guessing about his reasons for filing the motion.

“It was a couple of people spreading rumors and false information about what we were doing with Spelhouse. They have never contacted us before or spoken about our intentions with the brand. They just beat us up and the news was misinterpreted by a lot of different people and groups, causing a huge explosion on social media. “

Protecting the HBCU community and increasing the black community has always been his # 1 goal, Murray said.

Murray said he spoke to several Alumni groups from Spelman and Morehouse Colleges and other members of the HBCU community to better address the problem and explain the reason for the brand’s branding of the term.

“Our culture is often swept under the rug. Many people use culture in the same breath. They don’t know how to give something back. They just take us, take our ideas, our influence, and don’t really do enough to celebrate and honor us the way we should. I want to make sure that people get timeless unique pieces, but also build us up with the scholarships and various funds that we can give back to our community, ”said Murray, explaining the reason for the trademark of the term“ Spelhouse ”.

Murray said he was determined to do more for the Black community and HBCUs with his brand. He is also a proud partner of the Atlanta HBCU Alumni Alliance, an organization that hosts fundraising drives and events to bring the HBCU community together and raise funds for scholarships and funds for schools. A portion of the proceeds from Murray’s sales also go directly to the colleges that LHP is licensed to.

In February, LHP also announced the creation of the All It Takes is One Scholarship, which provides $ 10,000 scholarships to current HBCU undergraduate students.

Gerard Murray continues to mentor and guide Murray as he works on LHP’s evolution.

“I think what he’s doing is miles ahead of my age at this age. I think he has a good way to go. I’ve always told him that he makes a brand, it’s not a t-shirt line, it’s a brand. I’m really impressed with the way he navigates the waters, ”said Gerard Murray.

Alex Williams is a sophomore major in broadcast journalism and sports administration from New Orleans. She is a sports writer for Howard’s newspaper The Hilltop and a sports editor for Her Campus magazine (Howard Chapter).

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