Kerby Jean Raymond, the creative genius and lead director of Pyer Moss, debuted his first haute couture line on Saturday. Jean-Raymond is the 2nd black designer invited by the Paris Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture of the French Governing body (the first was Patrick Kelly in the 80’s. Read more about him here). Pyer Moss has never disappointed and their first foray into the Couture/Avant Garde world was sure to be stellar, cultural and revolutionary.
A couture line is different from a Ready to Wear Line, in that Haute Coute is an artistic style of fashion, often reserved for MET GALA’s, Museum Exhibits and the fashionably elite. These artistic garments take many months and thousands of hours to create by hand, from sketch to the last embroidered stitch. They even feature fashion tech and can also be 3D printed and welded with metallurgy. Other designers known for their evocative Haute Couture lines include: Chanel, Versace, Zuhair Murad, Dior, Guo Pei, Schiarapelli and more.
Thursday July 8th was the initial date for the show. Instead of traveling to Paris to present, Kerby Jean Raymond chose to present in Irvington, New York with a live stream. The show was hosted at Villa Lewaro, the mansion of late Madam C. J. Walker, the first female self made millionaire, beauty guru, and philanthropist. Many of the great black poets, writers, entrepreneurs and musicians of the Renaissance era graced those halls alongside Madam Walker nearly a century ago. It seemed the show would go on, rain or shine. Until it became torrential, due to a tropical storm, and ultimately for safety, the show was postponed for the 10th (read about it here).
It’s become tradition that Pyer Moss shows have a powerful skit or speech prior to the catwalk show. This year, he chose Elaine Brown, former chairwoman of the Black Panther Party. Her speech was full of nostalgia, and black poetic bravado, as she unabashedly proclaimed, “Power to the People!” Invited guests and attendees included Jidenna, Aurora James of Brother Vellies, celebrity stylists Law Roach, Misa Hylton, Terrell Jones, Fashion Bomb Daily’s Claire Sulmers, among many other notable stylish guests.
As is customary, the show featured a full orchestra and choir. This time consisted of only black men dressed in white tuxedos encircling the performing guest artist, 22Gz, chanting, stepping and marching to the beats. The models begin strutting out and the couture was blatantly symbolic and avant garde. A red bottle cap dress paid tribute to the black inventors, Amos E. Long and Albert A. Jones, and featured gorgeous hand stitched goldenrod embroidery and a decadent black taffeta curtain with the words, “delicious and refreshing” across the brand’s signature tricolor crest. What continued was a cultural parade displaying black life and ingenuity.
A gilded gold gown featuring hand sewn hot comb attachments honored Madam C.J. Walker.
Other noteworthy art pieces from the collection include the Silk Pink Lamp Chandelier Shade and ruched, tiered Gown. This piece took over three weeks to be sketched, executed and hand stitched by Los Angeles costume designer Rachelle Appelle. The gorgeous crystal strands delicately bounced across the models shoulders to the ambient acapella and orchestral music.
More black genius inventions and cultural nostalgia traipsed the runway: the Super Soaker water gun, paying homage to the inventor Lonni Johnson and childhood summer fun. The gorgeous piece was composed of parachuting fabric, latex, and patent leather.
Other stellar works of art included a yellow leather stop light dress featuring colorful PVC circles honoring inventor Garrett A Morgan, accessorized by red lace-up leather stilettos featuring a distinctive toe strap.
Another eye-catching piece was the typewriter suit with cascading paper-like receipts on the train, once again honoring black inventor C. Latham Sholes.
Then came a Black Liberation Flag tent looming down the runway, staring at the audience, leaving many with wonder and pride at the display of black independence.
The A/C window unit, a black invention by Frederick Jones, was featured on the runway along with Jean-Raymond’s “signature yellow dress” in a silk chiffon and satin. Almost every line that Jean Raymond has produced features a sumptuous yellow gown or dress in silk or viscose knit.
Other pieces included modern hairbrushes, a necessity in black households, lambskin leather chancla sandals and dress, a hand painted ice cream look with thigh high leather boots, a folding chair with a silk white gown, a refrigerator spelling out “But Who Invented Black Trauma,” the New Jack City old cell phones. The most distinct and notable piece was the regal hair roller robe, a walking piece of black hair artistry.
One thing about Kerby Jean Raymond, he will always make powerful, evocative statements–he has never whitewashed his runway. Nor does he fear exclusion or isolation based upon the racially charged motifs that he continues to push to the fans of his brand. In fact, he is honored and heralded for his authenticity and unwillingness to conform. Just this year he was honored at the 72nd Annual Parson’s Benefit Gala for his contribution to sustainability, inclusion and innovation.
The Couture “Wat U IZ” line brings out black culture and creativity in a monumental, museum worthy way, symbolizing African-American ingenuity. Black culture and inventions are used daily, yet homage and tribute are not often given proper respect.
Kerby Jean Raymond sought out to honor the legacy of African-American brilliance and to allow talented, people of color to create costume-worthy pieces. This line is a display of his prowess and passion for black culture–It is walking, living, art.
The RTW line; Collection 4 is set to debut in September at New York Fashion week this fall. For more information on this show and to shop Pyer Moss go to www.pyermoss.com.
What did you think?
Images: Courtesy of Pyer Moss
Malika B is a poet, content writer, and creative director for Shukuru Couture, residing in Atlanta. See more of her work at www.shukurucouture.com and her IG page: @malikaB.