Haute Couture Week is typically the most exclusive part of the fashion calendar: A cadre of largely white designers create elaborate collections meant to inspire their private clients, who will spend obscene amounts of money on custom versions of those outfits. But Haitian American designer Kerby Jean-Raymond has turned the entire concept of couture on its head.
Over the weekend, the 35-year-old designer behind Pyer Moss unveiled his first-ever couture collection, which was a glorious celebration of Blackness. Each of the 25 outfits was designed to highlight everyday inventions—from peanut butter to chess to refrigerators—that can be traced back to Black creators. The outfits were colorful, campy, and often hilarious, but the spectacle still managed to convey an undercurrent of Black trauma and how Black contributions have been regularly erased or co-opted by others. Jean-Raymond did more than highlight Black excellence and creativity; he showed that couture can transcend its elitist, racist origins and be relevant at a time of global racial reckoning.
Jean-Raymond debuted Pyer Moss in 2013, after working for designers including Marc Jacobs, Badgley Mischka, and Kenneth Cole. He launched the label with the explicit goal of using fashion to explore the Black experience. He’s never been shy about bringing politics into his work: His Spring/Summer 2016 show directly referenced police brutality and highlighted the Black Lives Matter movement. He’s also drawn attention to his own experiences of marginalization within the fashion industry: In 2019, he described being gaslit and used by industry magazine Business of Fashion after being offered, then denied, a cover.