Student-designed Zukente hat sold at universities around the country

Mq Borocz

Varehya Pratt, a sophomore apparel and merchandising major at Colorado State University, designed a hat she hopes will continue to inspire and empower others.

Last year Pratt was presented with the opportunity to create a hat in honor of Black History Month by the CSU Black and African American Cultural Center and the director of the CSU bookstore, John Parry. At first the hat was only in the bookstore as a limited edition. Now it is being sold at twenty universities around the country as well as online through Finish Line, with some of the proceeds funding education in Kenya.

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In addition to representing Black and African culture and herself as an artist, Pratt said her snapback hat is not limited to those things.

“I think it’s pretty cool to allow whoever it is wearing the hat to say what the hat represents,” Pratt said. “This hat means different things to different people. It’s not designed just for black people. You see so many people of different races that identify with this hat.”

Pratt said a person who grew up in Africa connected with the hat and bought it, others feel like it represents themselves or they identify with Black or African culture. Pratt said that she believes the hat is inspiring and empowering those who connect with it and wear it.

“Inspire and empower” is the slogan for the hat, as seen on the hang tag. The name of the collection is Zukente, which Pratt came up with. The name combines Kente, the colored design on the hat’s brim that originates from Ghana, with “Zu,” which means “going forward,” according to Pratt.

“Zukente means inspired to empower your own individuality,” Pratt said.

Two percent of the proceeds from each hat goes to the Samburu Youth Education Fund, a non-profit founded by CSU professor Brett Bruyere and alum Adam Beh that pays for Kenyan children to attend high school. Pratt chose the charity.

“When I was trying to find a charity, I wanted to find something that represented something I valued and one of them is education,” Pratt said. “This charity is amazing. I love it so much.”

Pratt said the hat sold out after its first few weeks in the CSU bookstore. After seeing its success, Pratt reached out to Parry and the Loveland-based company that produces the hat, Zephyr. Soon after, she met with Zephyr’s President and CEO, David Gormley, who loved the hat and, like Pratt, wanted to expand it.

Gormley said they should sell the hat at other universities and Zephyr offered it as part of a program to retailers for Black History Month.

“People like it. They like that there is a cause behind it, that it’s unique and that there is a story behind it,” Gormley said. “Sometimes we just make hats to make hats, the true capitalistic thing to do, but it’s good when there’s an added value. It makes you take it (and sell it) more personally and retailers take more pride in carrying it.”

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The CSU logo on the original design of the hat was replaced with the logos of the other 19 universities where the hat is sold, which include the University of Central Florida, Clemson University and the University of Cincinnati.

Pratt signed a three year contract with Zephyr and, according to her and Gormley, they want to use the Zukente collection to its fullest potential. In order to reach a wider audience they plan to put the hat’s design on other types of hats besides snapbacks, including beanies, baseball caps and possibly headbands or visors. Gormley said he would also like to create the design in colors other than green and gold to appeal to more people and represent other schools.

Pratt is an independent student, meaning she is not being supported by family or anyone else. She said that encouraged her to find her voice at CSU and leave an impact. Pratt said that it feels great to have the opportunity to work with Zephyr.

“(Knowing) I was successful doing this on my own, knowing that I had the ability to (design the hat and work with Zephyr) is definitely an accomplishment,” Pratt said. “My goal is to get my artwork everywhere. I would say the best place to start would be apparel, but eventually I would love to see my artwork in buildings.”

Collegian reporter MQ Borocz can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @MQBorocz22.