“If I’m going to be the black designer, I’m going to tell it my way,” Kerby Jean-Raymond said in a recent interview with Mic. And the way he chose to do so was radical – in all the right ways.
On Thursday, Jean-Raymond showcased his Spring 2016 collection at New York Fashion Week, meshing the Black Lives Matter movement and fashion to make art of social justice. A 10-minute video, all in black and white, set the tone for show. The opener was the killing of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man shot by police officers in South Carolina this April. It then rolled to footage of unarmed black teens terrorized by police at a Texas pool in June. Only after Eric Garner choked out “I can’t breathe” did the clothes appear.
The show was something of a living monument to the movement. Gunshots echoed, replacing normal runway music. Red spray paint symbolizing gun wounds splattered themselves across the backs of jackets while blood red paint dripped down each boot. As the final model left the runway, she turned to expose the word “breathe” written across her jacket three times.
Typically, the first row of a fashion show is strictly reserved for people like Anna Wintour and various other celebrities. In this show, however, the families of those lost to police violence graced that coveted isle. Through each detail Jean-Raymond expressed the violence manifested within America’s systematic racism and the toll it takes on the black body.
Jean-Raymond has been stopped and frisked 12 times before the age of 18, and two months before the show he saw two guns pointed at him because cops mistook the bandages on his broken fingers as a gun. This story line and the building movement pushed him to create this show and shed light on a subject that is often ignored in the fashion world. He says he’s already lost money and risks the industry labeling him as “only a black designer,” but the importance of the message outweighs the costs. This was his contribution to Black Lives Matter–and he said he feels “much freer” because of it.
(Images via Pyer Moss).