The Black Love Behind Pyer Moss
Meron Menghistab's backstage photos of Kerby Jean-Raymond's latest NYFW show highlight the joyful community of black creatives that has formed around the designer.
“American, Also: Lesson 2,” Pyer Moss’s spring/summer 2019 collection, is being hailed as one of the standout shows of New York Fashion Week. And for good reason. In every aspect, from the historic location and uplifting presentation to the exquisite designs and powerful messages, it stands as a culmination of everything designer Kerby Jean-Raymond has been working towards over the past five years. But what really struck VICE photographer Meron Menghistab about the show was the vast number of people—black people—who came together to support Jean-Raymond's vision and the unbridled joy that they shared around its creation.
According to a recent interview in Vogue, Jean-Raymond's goal was to showcase what the “African-American experience would look like without the constant threat of racism.” To that end, Jean-Raymond adorned dresses and T-shirts and two-pieces with new work by the supremely talented artist Derrick Adams. Throughout the collection, Jean-Raymond utilized Adams's poignant portraits of “black folks doing normal things” like cooking burgers or cradling an infant. The images were a disarming counterpoint to the black pain and suffering Americans are constantly inundated with in the media.
In addition to presenting his second collection with Reebok at the show, Jean-Raymond also collaborated on several pieces with the iconic FUBU brand. The latter collaboration really drove home the idea of black power thriving beyond the stifling grip of white supremacy. One of the standout Pyer Moss X FUBU pieces was a short, sleeveless yellow jacket with both brandnames emblazoned across the front. Like a lot of FUBU's classic, rugged outwear, the jacket looked a bit like armor, but Kerby made it sharp and sleek and modern.
The show was hosted at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which is not far from where Jean-Raymond grew up. The Center is located at the historical site where one of the nation's first free black communities was founded after the abolition of slavery. This was a place where black folks could thrive outside of the specter of white supremacy and oppression. The show's location embodied the deep connection the brand has to the cross-generational project of black community building and self-determination.
To put the whole thing together, Raymond relied on countless people, including the black-owned event and communication companies Beyond 8 and the Hinton Group. The looks were created by black stylists Ib Kamara and Eric Mcneal, and worn by black models like Nyaman Adeng and Musa Sillah. And as those looks came streaming down the runway, they were complimented by the black voices of a full gospel choir. Choral renditions of uplifting songs like Stevie Wonder's "Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away" and Jay Rock's "Win" created the perfect soundtrack to the feeling Jean-Raymond conjured on the runway.
Even though the show was outdoors and it was raining, a number of notable people from all walks of life came out to support it—from social advocates like Deray Mckesson and Angela Rye to young artists like Venus X and Gunna, who actually walked on the runway in one of Pyer Moss's Reebok looks. Appropriately, the show was followed up with a Caribbean barbecue that was DJed by sunglasses designers Coco and Breezy.
Meron Menghistab was on the scene to catch all of these people working, eating, drinking, laughing, and loving in support of Pyer Moss's new collection and the promise of life beyond American hate.
Editor's note: This piece