I’m one of those who if asked “would you go back to college today?” I answer not “yes,” but “hell yes!” What was not to love? You are learning, are living with friends, and have fun activities available 24-7. For me, college literally changed my life. I played hard but studied hard, had the time of my life and made life-long friends. To this day, I take a trip once-a-year with four college girlfriends. We’re on our 15th year now. With that being said, it naturally comes as no surprise to me that all things college are tres chic right now.
To prove this, look no further than Graduate Hotels, owned by former Auberge Resorts executive Ben Weprin. The 39-year-old entrepreneur’s AJ Capital Partners has launched the group of properties in college towns across America and they are not only trendy, they are trending.
Currently located in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Oxford, Mississippi; Athens, Georgia; Madison, Wisconsin; Tempe, Arizona; Berkeley, California; Charlottesville, Virginia; Lincoln, Nebraska; Richmond, Virginia; Bloomington, Indiana; and Minneapolis, each property is customized to be in sync with the local university’s vibe.
For example, in former home of author William Faulkner and current home of Ole Miss, Oxford’s Graduate Hotel’s room keys resemble Ole Miss ID cards and the concierge desk is a bookshelf. Weprin is currently a “big man on campus” in the hospitality industry and explained his school of thought to “Town and Country” magazine.
“Everyone goes back to their college and they’re proud of the place,” he says. “Why shouldn’t the visit to college be something memorable too?”
I concur, and to do this Weprin and his team scour local antique shops and flea markets to find items that inspire décor. Each site celebrates a youthful optimism and cultivates spirit and memory making. Best of all, they are affordable and yet they boast five-star touches.
These all remind me of hotels we stayed at when my daughter and friends did college tours during her junior year of high school. We stayed at small hotels, many of them right near campus and often owned and managed by the university. I particularly remember The Hotel at Auburn University and The Inn at Carnall Hall in Fayetteville. They were such treats to stay at and I highly recommend researching similar sites at any universities you may be touring in the future.
It’s probably only a matter of time before LSU, Clemson, Bama, Mizzou, and Texas Tech have Graduate Hotels in their cities, but until then, they can at least lay claim to some of the country’s only country-club-like amenities having to do with water.
All of them have actual floating rivers on campus. Yes, lazy rivers! Can you even imagine? Let’s see, go to class, go study, then go float the river. I’m in! At SMU in Dallas, students don’t have an actual floating river but they do have a tanning pool shallow enough to allow sitting in chairs and chaise lounges comfortably. If I’m the admissions director at those schools, these perks are front and center in all recruitment materials.
Founded by two Ivy League alums, Hillflint is right on top of the collegiate trend. The company is the place to go if old school knit sweaters are what you’re looking for. Crafted to remind customers of happy college memories, their product line is like taking a trip back in time. No trendy metallics, flashy bling, or catchy phrases, just simple block letters and striped arms.
The owners founded the company after graduating college, and are quick to admit they did so because they wanted to offer something to friends that would outlive souvenir tee-shirts and something more indelible, just like the memories of their college years were. Today 120 universities allow their logos and trademarks on Hillflint sweaters with styles ranging from Stadium to Tailgating and a host of others that definitely make the grade.
The fashion industry has of course taken note of the current “college is cool” trend. Or did they set the trend? Either way, cardigans were all over runways, including those of Gucci, Altuzarra, Chloe, and Miu Miu, which means retailers coast-to-coast will be stocking them this fall and winter.
A fashion favorite for years, the cardigan was created by none other than Coco Chanel. In 1925, the style maven was frustrated with how crew neck sweaters ruined her hair and felt tight, so she revamped them and designed the first timeless cardigan. I wonder if the buttons were pearls.
So as you enjoy a good college football game this weekend, whether in a stadium seat or a living room chair, know that all things college are too cool for school right now. Boomer!