This week, I’ll be highlighting another black designer who is making waves in the fashion industry today: Kerby Jean-Raymond. His streetwear label, Pyer Moss, has been growing steadily since its inception in 2013. Alongside the success of his brand, Jean-Raymond has been using his platform to not only showcase his clothing, but many political issues as well.
Kerby Jean-Raymond is the child of Haitian immigrants, and started his first fashion brand, Mary’s Jungle, when he was only 15. Since then his work has been a commentary on many social issues, from the Iraq war, the 2008 financial crisis, police brutality, and depression. Each collection tells a story, with each piece carefully crafted to fit the narrative he is looking for. Even the name of his brand, Pyer Moss, has a deeper meaning. Moss was his mother’s maiden name before she changed it to Pierre, the same name as a cousin, to better her chances of immigrating to the United States.
These shoes were a part of Pyer Moss’ Spring 2016 collection, one that made headlines for its strong stance on police violence against black Americans. The combat boots are splattered with blood and covered with the names of victims of police brutality. The show was opened up with a 15 minute video that showed black and white footage of the choking death of Eric Garner and Marlon Brown being run over by police. Alongside the videos were interviews with the families of these victims, from Emerald Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, and Nicole Bell, the fiance of Sean Bell, who was killed in 2006.
To start his first womenswear collection debut with a violent video, and one that recieved many gasps from the audience and was met with stunned silence at the ending, was a bold move on the part of Jean-Raymond, however he is committed to being sure that his work takes a stand on the issues he cares about. Living in New York City, the designer was stopped and frisked 12 different times between the ages of 12 and 18. Earlier that year, two officers also pulled guns on him after mistaking his black arm cast for a weapon. His experiences gave him a personal understanding of the issue and motivated him to create this collection.
In 2015, Jean-Raymond hoped that the advent of social media would mean that the deaths of these people could no longer be ignored by society. Five years later, we are seeing his thoughts come to fruition, with what has now been nearly a month of dedicated protesting against these actions, the footage of not only deaths at the hands of the police, but violence at protests has taken over social media, making an issue that has been continuously swept under the rug unable to be brushed aside anymore.
Pyer Moss has created work based on many other social justice issues as well, one of which was their Spring 2017 collection, which focused on the 2008 financial crisis and was titled “Bernie vs. Bernie”, as a commentary on two different sides of capitalism: Bernie Sanders and Bernie Madoff. The collection featured sweatshirts like this one with “Greed” written acorss the front, along with t-shirts printed with Madoff’s image. The runway itself also included registers worked by five black female cashiers, with name tags that read “Anonymus” “No Name” and “Nobody”. The collection was inspired by a year in which Jean-Raymond faced lawsuits and legal trouble, and was meant to show the work creatives, especially black creatives do, and how consumerism stifles their messages.
Kerby Jean- Raymond’s work in both activism and the fashion industry is far from over, and I am excited to see what he does with his platform next. To read more about his work, I recommend this interview with The New York Times, which gives a good rundown of Jean-Raymond’s early work and well as where he is headed as a designer.