By: LaToya Dove
Fashion enthusiast everywhere anticipate New York Fashion Week to see either their favorite designer or scope out new designers on the rise. This year, I was lucky enough to attend a show on the first day of fashion week.
Little did I know, later that night would be one of the most thought provoking runway shows of NYFW. The designer that stood out and made headlines along side veterans Max Azria BCBG and Marc Jacobs was Kerby Jean-Raymond of the New York fashion label, Pyer Moss. It wasn’t Jean-Raymond’s designs that made headlines though, it was the message behind his show: Black Lives Matter.
His show started with a video compilation of recent police brutality incidents including Long Island man Eric Garner who was put into a choke hold by police which resulted in his death. Other clips included a teenage girl being held face down on the ground outside of a pool party and a suspect being run down by a police car. As the video played, gasps could be heard around the room.
As reported in The Guardian, Jean-Raymond said, “I’m black, I’m a designer, I’m living in a time this is happening. You’re 28 years old, you’re watching kids younger than you who are being killed by grown men who claim fear as an excuse.”
Jean-Raymond actually contemplated whether or not he was going to show his actual designs. The message behind the show was bigger than the designs themselves. Jean-Raymond was able to use the platform he was given to raise awareness about a greater issue especially given the predominantly white demographic of the fashion industry.
But not everyone was receptive to the idea. According to Quartz.com, Jean-Raymond wrote about his plan to the Washington Post. Shortly after, He started losing retail accounts in Europe and the venue he had booked for his runway show cancelled the event claiming the the guest list was over capacity. Some people, who landed the coveted front row seats to his show, opted to not attend the event because of the Black Lives Matter stance. Despite the adversity, Jean-Raymond pressed on because he knew silence was not the way to change.
For many, race is an uncomfortable topic, especially for those who are not the targets of racism. I don’t know if it is because they do not witness it themselves so they think people are overreacting or because they realize it exists but do not want to be accused of it so they choose to ignore it. None the less, it is important for people to be aware of what is going on in the world around them, and especially when it’s happening at their own front door.
Sometimes, people need to be forced to pay attention. I think that is what Jean-Raymond was trying to do. For the people that chose to go to his fashion show, they were forced to sit there and face the issue. He was trying to continue the movement and let people know it is still here and racism is still alive in America. Now what are we going to do about it?
Jean-Raymond actually decided to show his clothing line. It was a ‘night before the show’ decision. As the models walked the runway, artist Gregory Siff graffitied the clothing with words such as “Breathe” in reference to Eric Garner’s cries, “I can’t breathe.”
Jean-Raymond should be applauded for his efforts in creating change in the way he knew how and with the resources he had. I’m sure not everyone walked away from that fashion show with a new outlook on life, but I am sure at least one person stopped to think and question what they saw. And maybe they will pass along what they saw, and so the fight for change continues.