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 COMMENCEMENT


May Commencement debuts new Carolina ‘true blue’ regalia
and change in venue plans

Fashion designer and alumnus Alexander Julian (seated) shows off the Commencement robes he designed in a true Carolina Blue environmentally friendly fabric. Modeling the new gowns are, from left, his son, Will Julian; Justin Tyler, senior class vice president; and Chelsea Phillips, senior class chief marshal.

Award-winning colorist and fashion designer Alexander Julian – Chapel Hill native and UNC alumnus – was determined that his son, Will, was not going to graduate in May wearing an aqua gown.

Julian, most famous for his clothing line Colours and for putting argyle on the Tar Heels’ basketball uniform, knows a little something about color. And he knew that the regalia in use for the past several years were not true Carolina Blue.

“As a colorist, ever since Holden Thorp was inaugurated as chancellor, I have been on him like a wet, dirty T-shirt to let me try to improve the true blueness of the robe color,” Julian said.

The robe also wasn’t green, as in sustainably made.

At the first home football game of the 2010 season, Julian got approval from Thorp to go ahead with his idea for true blue, truly green regalia. He then worked closely (and gratis) with Oak Hall Cap & Gown, supplier of UNC regalia for decades; Carolyn Elfland, associate vice chancellor for campus services; and John Gorsuch, interim director of campus merchandising for Student Stores; to create the first designer regalia in the country. 

Julian added fashion details such as white piping along the yoke and two white panels in front. He also removed one of the pleats in the gown for a more flattering fit for most figures. The tassel is 75 percent blue and 25 percent white instead of solid blue, topped with an Old Well medallion that is colored silver instead of gold.

Most important, after many dye tests, the cloth is finally what the Tar Heel-trained eye of Carolina’s “unofficial color czar” judges to be the perfect shade of Carolina blue. At the same time, the team worked hard to make sure the new gown was also truly green.

Oak Hall offered a fabric made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. (It takes 23 plastic bottles to make each gown.) But the fabric was manufactured in Asia, which didn’t fit the UNC team’s idea of sustainable, so Oak Hall found a manufacturer with mills in North and South Carolina, and the fabric will be sewn into gowns at the company’s facility in Virginia. The information that the gown is sustainable is printed directly on the cloth, rather than on a label.

The new regalia will make its debut at Commencement Information Day on March 17 in the Great Hall of the F.P.G. Student Union. At $54.99, the true blue gown will cost students $5 more than last year’s aqua model. (Students with old gowns can bring them in for a $5 credit on the new gown.)

Kenan, rain or shine
Whether the sky on Commencement morning, May 8, is a bright Carolina blue or a cloudy gray, the place for the ceremony will be the same – Kenan Stadium.

Thorp has reversed a policy that had May Commencement shifting inside to the Dean E. Smith Center in the event of rain.

While the weather never necessitated a change in venue, each year graduating students were urged to secure Smith Center tickets for guests in advance. About 30,000 people attend Commencement annually in Kenan Stadium, whereas the seating capacity in the Smith Center for graduation is 20,000 or less.

“Moving the ceremony to Smith Center was never a good option because the seating capacity is so limited for an event of this magnitude,” Thorp said. “This way, graduates won’t have to limit the number of guests they invite.”

If it rains during Commencement, the chancellor and organizers will shorten the ceremony, but it will not be relocated. If severe weather threatens and attendees’ safety is at risk, the ceremony will be canceled.

The change in policy eliminates confusion about where graduates and guests should go for the ceremony when the weather is questionable. It ensures that all the family members who travel to Chapel Hill will be able to attend Commencement. And it will save thousands of dollars in ticket distribution and in staff time for workers who would have to be on call at the Smith Center.

For information about Commencement, see http://bit.ly/guAE52.

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February 23, 2011

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