Kerby Jean-Raymond Brought Black Inventions to Couture Runways

By: Maximillian Boudreaux

Kerby Jean-Raymond was finally able to make his debut as the first Black American invited by the Fédération de la Haute Couture to present for a Paris Haute Couture season.  The theme of the introduction of his Pyer Moss Couture Collection was Black inventions and innovators. 

After a weather malfunction on Thursday led to the cancellation of the show, the unveiling of these haute couture designs was seen on Saturday. Enthusiastic attendees gathered in the Madam C.J. Walker’s Villa Lewaro, anxious to watch a new fashion era come to life.  

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The designer not only wanted to showcase his take on haute couture, but wanted his audience to come away learning the various contributions African Americans have made to American culture. The Pyer Moss Couture Collection contained inventions by Black people sculpted into fashionable pieces of art. Such examples include the automatic traffic signal by Garrett Morgan, the portable air conditioner by Frederick Jones and a huge jar of peanut butter representing George Washington Carver.  

“These are inventions by Black people and I wanted to reintroduce them to Black people, reverse the erasure that may exist— and to troll a little bit, too,” Jean-Raymond told Vogue. 

Not only were guests regaled with the lovely fabrics of Pyer Moss, but the Villa Lewaro set the stage for an introduction of Black excellence. Not only was this the home of the first female millionaire Madam C.J. Walker, but members of the Harlem Renaissance were known to frequent Walker’s home.  

Jean-Raymond had Elaine Brown, a former Black Panther, speak with the audience before the designs hit the runway. Jean-Raymond also invited rapper 22Gz, who hails from Brooklyn like the designer, to perform. 

 

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Aside from making a statement about the historical significance of African Americans, there were some pieces that would make for graceful evening wear that Jean-Raymond put on display. There was a white off-the-shoulder dress paired with a folding chair which was a salute to Nathaniel Alexander. A light pink bodycon dress was paired with a beaded-fringe lampshade hat in an homage to Lewis Latimer’s electric lightbulb.  

In the show notes, Jean-Raymond wrote: “We are an invention inside of an invention. Inside of the creation of race, we made blackness. Uprooted from home and put in a foreign land, we made culture. And when they tried to strip our humanity, we made freedom so tethered to each other that it still shapes the world today.” 

“The stories the world tells us about us are about pain,” Jean-Raymond continued. “The stories we tell about each other about our own lives are about how grandma loved us with Bible verses and lemonade, how bloodlines never defined who our aunts and uncles were, how the house was always big enough to take in everybody we loved. We hold stories of glory in our bodies. Black imagination is this world’s greatest technology.” 

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