The annual New York Fashion Week madness is currently underway in the Big Apple and one Black designer is using his fashion platform to shine the spotlight on a much bigger topic: racism and police brutality against African-Americans.
In a powerful display of social consciousness, Designer Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss challenged his NYFW audience to confront the growing epidemic of police brutality against Black lives. In a moving video montage, the Pyer Moss designer featured recent victims of police violence such as Walter Scott, Eric Garner and the teen girl who was manhandled by a white police officer responding to a “disturbance” at pool party in Texas. Take a look below.
The video was followed by an extraordinary fashion presentation featuring apparel from the Pyer Moss 2016 collection spattered with fake blood, including a pair of blood-spattered boots bearing the names of Black police brutality victims.
Speaking on how the presentation came together, Jean-Raymond had this to say during a quick interview with Mic.
“I decided to show the clothes last-minute. I just wanted to show the video.”
The showcase was also important to Jean-Raymond for personal reasons — as he had been a victim of police brutality multiple times as an adolescent.
Mic told the story of the upcoming designer’s run-ins with police that led to his decision.
Before the age of 18, Jean-Raymond said, he was stopped and frisked 12 times. He was once stopped by police while driving on the highway back to Hofstra University, where he was a summa cum laude student on full scholarship. Steering the Lexus SC300 he bought after saving up $3,600, Jean-Raymond was snatched from his vehicle and repeatedly slammed against the trunk.
Unfortunately, his experiences extended far beyond adolescence and into adulthood — as recent as last month.
Just a month ago, he was standing outside a friend’s apartment talking on the phone. He had recently injured two of his fingers, which were jutting up and bandaged with black tape. The police, he says, mistook his two injured fingers for a gun. When he turned around, he had two guns pointed at him.
That’s when he knew that he had to do the show. Despite the backlash, the questions, the misunderstandings and the money that he might lose (and already has, he told Mic), this was Jean-Raymond’s story to tell. He chose to enter the conversation on a platform that often brushes race but rarely addresses it directly on the runway — all the while grappling with whether this would pigeonhole him, as he often is, as a “black designer.”
“If you’re going to put me in this ‘black designer’ category, at least let me tell a story,” Jean-Raymond said.
Hopefully Jean-Raymond’s courageous decision to go against the grain and use his platform to reach far beyond the boundaries of fashion will encourage other Black designers to do the same.
Image Credits: Getty Images/Mic/AP