African-American designer Kerby Jean-Raymond started his label Pyer Moss in 2013 and is one of the few black designers working today alongside Virgil Abloh of Louis Vuitton and Off-White, Olivier Rousteing of Balmain, Duro Olowu and Stella Jean. His collections combine a compelling fusion of joy, pride and angst-free ease.
“We want to challenge the [traditional] perspective and use fashion as a canvas for telling stories. It’s not just about pretty clothes,” says the 32-year-old New Yorker.
For his Spring/Summer 2019 collection, Jean-Raymond collaborated with the New York-based multi-disciplinary artist Derrick Adams on a series of prints that celebrate everyday life. There’s the image of a father holding a child on a tropical pink Swarovski crystal-embellished vest dress; portraits of people chatting, blown up large on green silk pajamas; and printed on a top, a depiction of a dad and his son flipping burgers on a barbecue. At the show, held during New York Fashion Week, a live choir serenaded the outdoor leafy runway at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, near where Jean-Raymond was raised. Established in 1838, a little over a decade after slavery was abolished in New York, the neighborhood was one of America’s first free black communities. Indeed, in the lead-up to his collection, Jean-Raymond read The Negro Motorist Green-Book, a manual for black drivers that was published in the 1930s as a guide to hotels and restaurants offering a safe haven from discrimination.
The languorous clothes featured long crochet-knit dresses with flippy fringe hems, spencer jacket tuxedos in blush pink (Tracee Ellis Ross sported one at the 2018 American Music Awards) and poignant anti-sensationalist phrases such as ‘See Us Now?’, which adorned a cummerbund, and ‘Stop Calling 911 on the Culture’, emblazoned on a T-shirt tucked into a gorgeous, cherry-red eiderdown wrap skirt.
Togetherness reaps rewards, which is why the designer has worked on capsule collections, with FUBU (1990s streetwear label For Us By Us) and Reebok, and has collaborated with Swarovski. He also recognizes that fashion is one of the biggest and most powerful forms of media – after all, he can make an angelic silk blouse dress or a dapper suit and simultaneously use them to open up a new social narrative.
This story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of SALT magazine.
Image Credit: Jason Lloyd-Evans