It’s been a big year for Creative Director Kerby Jean-Raymond.
After designing Vice President Kamala Harris’s “new wave” coat at the 59th Presidential Inauguration, announcing his highly-anticipated return to New York Fashion Week following a two-year hiatus, and becoming the first Black designer invited to show Haute Couture during Paris Couture Week, Jean-Raymond’s Pyer Moss has quickly become a cultural phenomenon of American fashion history.
Following a 48-hour postponement from the show’s original date due to torrential rain and lightning from Hurricane Elsa hitting the Northeast, Jean-Raymond showed his first-ever couture collection staged at the facade of Villa Lewaro in Irvington, New York. The sprawling 34-room home which once belonged to America’s first self-made female millionaire Madame C.J. Walker was intended as a space to elevate the Black community and its pioneers. “I am not a millionaire, but I hope to be some day, not because of the money, but because I could do so much to help my race,” Walker once said in an interview with The New York Times.
Entitled “Wat U Iz”, the collection displayed a moving commentary on the erasure of Black culture that used clothing as canvas in Jean-Raymond’s artful storytelling throughout the presentation. A giant peanut butter jar dress, silky pink lamp shades with glittering beaded fringe, a floor-length cape made entirely of hair rollers, ice cream cone chaps, a refrigerator dress with magnets spelling ‘but who invented Black trauma?’ – the imaginative and camp-y collection used 3D shapes and construction highlighting the inventions of Black people in a nontraditional way. Blurring the lines between art and fashion, the collection utilized sculptural forms communicating the realities of Black America and the ongoing fight for reparations.
“We are an invention inside of an invention. Inside of the creation of race, we made blackness. Uprooted from home and put in a foreign land, we made culture. And when they tried to strip our humanity, we made freedom so tethered to each other that it still shapes the world today,” read the show’s notes.
Elsewhere, the show opened with a moving speech and lesson in history from American activist and former Black Panther Party chairwomen Elaine Brown followed by a musical performance from drill rapper 22Gz, an nod to Jean-Raymond’s Brooklyn roots. Despite the show’s initial weather complications, the collection and its statement proved worth the wait wowing guests and leaving behind some powerful takeaways.
Click through the gallery below to see all the looks.END
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