A classic Pyer Moss runway show is incomplete without a few iconic elements. Extravagant designs, a location imbued with culture, music that will keep your Shazam running throughout the show and an elaborate lesson in Black antiquity. After years of bringing Black excellence to the forefront of fashion, Pyer Moss finally made history and took the industry by storm. Founder and designer of the label, Kerby Jean-Raymond, became the first Black-American designer invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Collections to make his couture debut. And, of course, there was no way he wouldn’t produce an inventive cohesion of art and fashion.
Set in the front lawn of Villa Lewaro in upstate New York, the 20,000-square-foot mansion once served as the abode for Madam C.J. Walker—one of America’s most famous Black self-made millionaires. The estate was a gathering point for Black people back in the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Emblematic of resilience and strength, the location of the show was a strong nod to Black success and history, a theme that was recurrent in Kerby Jean-Raymond’s presentation titled, ‘WAT U IZ.’ Showcasing at the iconic estate of a pioneering personality like Madame CJ Walker represented a legacy of Black affluence of power in all its subtlety.
Featuring 25 out-of-the-box looks in total, the show broke away from the traditional notions of couture to pay an ode to Black innovators. Dotted with references that traversed upon Black ingenuity and inventions, the collection brought to light the rich Black history that has been historically overlooked. A model walked down the runway in a brown check chess suit, a game that can be traced back all the way to Africa. A peanut butter jar outfit made jaws drop as it reminded spectators that George Washington Carver may not have invented peanut butter, but he did develop over 300 ways to use peanuts.
Other noteworthy outfits comprised an elaborate lavender headpiece styled to look like a chandelier, invented by Black creator Lewis Latimer and a dress inspired by a bottle cap, created by Black inventor Amos E. Long in 1898. From hair rollers, traffic lights, fire extinguishers, refrigerators, air conditioners to cell phones—the whole show was peppered with looks that represented Black innovations that were never noticed.
One after the other, as everyday essentials made an appearance on the runway, the ramp turned into a buffet of sorts for the eye. From sculptural pieces juxtaposed with clothing to being an intrinsic part of it, the show amalgamated fashion, art, culture and history in a way like never before. Here’s what Kerby Jean-Raymond had to say about the looks: “The concept is layered, there’s no central theme. The general concept is that these are inventions by Black people, and I wanted to re-introduce them to Black people and reverse any erasure that may exist.” He further added, “It is one of several means to an end—this house, inventions, creativity, ingenuity, all of those things are pathways to that sort of economic independence.”
Swipe through for a look at some of our favourite looks from the show:Invalid slider id. Master Slider ID must be a valid number.
All of the 25 sculptured garments from the show will be put on an exhibition inside Villa Lewaro, built back in 1918. The designer behind Pyer Moss concluded the show by stating, “I want people to experience that Black wealth is not a dirty thing.”