A Marriage of Art and Fashion in Pyer Moss

NEW YORK, United States - Congratulations are in order for designer Kerby Jean-Raymond of American label Pyer Moss. He claimed the top prize (and $400,000) at the Council of Fashion Designers of America - Vogue Fashion Fund’s annual awards ceremony in New York on November 5.

 Designer Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss and  Vogue  EIC Anna Wintour / Photo Courtesy @kerbito

Designer Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss and Vogue EIC Anna Wintour / Photo Courtesy @kerbito

Hard won and well-deserved, Jean-Raymond joins a select number of black CFDA winners (including recipients outside the Vogue Fashion Fund which focuses on emerging talent) including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Stephen Burrows, and in recent years, Aurora James of Brother Vellies, Maxwell Osbourne of Public School, Carly Cushnie of CUSHNIE, and last year’s winner Telfar Clemens of Telfar.

On winning the honor, Jean-Raymond remarked, “this ride has been insane - mad years of ups/downs later, we won, in Brooklyn. We’re ready for whatever comes next. Love.” His terse words do not do justice to the trials he faced in building up his 5-year old brand. In spite of that, he is unafraid.

Perhaps because he knows his history - personal and generational - and what it means to persist in defiance of an ecosystem that would seek to spit one out. He dares to broach topics oft untouched by other designers of all backgrounds, including police brutality (his now sold out “Stop Calling 911 on the Culture” tee-shirt donates a percentage of proceeds to benefit The Innocence Project), mental health, and racism. Recent capsule collaborations with historically relevant black-led brands Cross Colours and FUBU are another example of Jean-Raymond’s rallying cry to uplift other designers under-appreciated in the mainstream canon. With last week’s win, things are dramatically looking up - the funding and mentorship will provide added leverage to bring his brand into more wardrobes worldwide.

 Model Sira P. Kante wearing Pyer Moss Spring 2019 with Derrick Adams and shoes by Brother Vellies / Photo Courtesy Yannis Vlamos / Indigital.tv

Model Sira P. Kante wearing Pyer Moss Spring 2019 with Derrick Adams and shoes by Brother Vellies / Photo Courtesy Yannis Vlamos / Indigital.tv

All accolades aside, it is the collaboration with multi-disciplinary artist Derrick Adams in his Spring 2019 collection presented at New York Fashion Week that is indeed his most profound. Jean-Raymond commissioned 10 paintings from Adams that were interwoven in a series of billowing blouses and dresses. The ten works depict scenes of leisure - cooking on the barbecue, sitting outside, frankly ordinary black life. It is a poignant display of the mundane, a space that has been entrenched upon in black America, but that will persist exactly in defiance of an ecosystem that would seek to spit one out. The ease of Adams’ idyllic scenes is wonderfully translated in a plissé handkerchief skirt as it is in a plain tee.

It is the melding of fashion and art amongst black creatives that is of vital importance. It reminds us of Grace Wales Bonner’s collaboration with Eric N. Mack (whose newly announced solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum is sure to impress next January) or even her licensing of Jacob Lawrence and Carl Van Vechten works in her designs. Similarly at Pyer Moss, it is a marriage of black artistry at the highest levels - not just singers and dancers on display or haphazard inclusion on the runway (only to disappear the following season), but a proper collaboration of heavy-weight caliber talents. In light of his recent Autumn 2018 campaign, Jean-Raymond remarked, “we will keep working to bridge the gap between fashion, art and humanity.” It is as fundamental to his raison d’être as a designer and an all-around worthy mission.

For a moment, imagine a Kerry James Marshall for Duro Olowu collaboration or a Lorna Simpson x Khiry capsule project - the applications are endless and we are in a time where we are witnessing more black visual artists take on commercial enterprises to great success. See Nina Chanel Abney at Google, Deana Lawson shooting Rihanna for Garage, and Tyler Mitchell shooting Beyoncé for Vogue as contemporary examples. Jean-Raymond and his work at Pyer Moss are powerfully making the case that art and commerce can effectively inspire in a story of ordinary black life.