College merch is suddenly cool. The merch revolution, starting with classic rock band tees and then moving into arts-adjacent tote bags has now made its way into collegiate apparel. But we’re not talking about standard-issue baseball caps and hooded sweatshirts. These are not your dad’s lucky jerseys.
What’s really hitting campus stadiums on game day is a whole new breed of school spirit that finds itself on crop tops, pleated skirts, and shrunken puffer jackets. And it wouldn’t have happened unless Hype and Vice cofounders Cecilia Gonzalez and Kimberly Robles entered the college apparel market.
“We were both college roommates back then,” remembers Kimberly Robles, “and the whole idea started just because we went to the USC tailgates and all the girls were cutting up T-shirts that were just available at the bookstore. They mostly wanted crop tops, bandana tops, and then a lot of them used to buy little kids-size skirts that weren’t available in adult sizes.”
It dawned on the pair that there was a gap in the market, and their unique position gave them a new perspective that hadn’t dawned on the established college apparel businesses, mostly run by men.
“No one is doing adult clothes that girls actually wanted to wear,” Robles says. “We looked, we did our research, and we found that no one else was doing it. There was not a brand catering to that specific woman. And that’s how the whole idea started.”
From there, they were off to the races, slowly building up a stable of licensed deals with universities. After a few signed on, Hype and Vice started to gain credibility and watch their growth snowball.
As they grew, the team needed more sophisticated software to track their sales and guide strategy.
“We grew a lot last year,” Robles says. “That was our inflection point, and we needed a system. We couldn’t keep doing this manually on a million Google sheets.”
Robles says they turned to ApparelMagic after researching their options and seeing how user-friendly and visually-oriented the software is, a nonnegotiable for their design-focused team. And once they started using it, the benefits were obvious.
“Now there is one place everybody can access to look at orders,” Robles says. “It’s definitely a time-saver because we used to do everything very manually. Now everything’s automatic.”
So what’s next for Hype and Vice?
“We’re right now at 192 schools,” Robles says.”I think the goal for this year is to get licenses that we’re missing for the NCAA, and then continue growing wholesale. That’s the area that’s been growing a lot for us, so definitely getting into top retailers.”
Sights are set high, and with the brand’s trajectory, Hype and Vice looks likely to keep this momentum going.