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Kerby Jean-Raymond and A$AP Ferg@kerbito via Instagram

This designer will use NFYW to make a statement about racism

Kerby Jean-Raymond – the founder of NYC label Pyer Moss – will show a video addressing police brutality in the US

Menswear brand Pyer Moss garnered media attention earlier this year for its “They Have Names” t-shirt, which feature the names of 13 unarmed black men killed by the police, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner. Demand for this t-shirt was so high that it crashed the brand’s website – four times.

Though it’s been doing menswear up until now, Pyer Moss will be making its womenswear debut at New York Fashion Week in September. And that’s not the only reason this show will be making headlines. The brand’s 28-year-old founder, Kerby Jean-Raymond, will be making a statement about racism at the show – by screening a film. 

But this film won’t be focussing on topics such as catwalk diversity or cultural appropriation in the fashion industry. Instead, it’ll be addressing race and racism on a grander scale, including the problem of police brutality in the United States. Produced by Jean-Raymond himself, the film will feature NFL player and Givenchy campaign boy Victor Cruz, portrait painter Kehinde Wiley, The Washington Post’s fashion critic Robin Givhan. Nicole Bell (the widow of Sean Bell, shot by the police in 2008) will also be featured, along with Wanda Johnson (the mother of Oscar Grant III, shot in 2009). Grant’s heart-breaking tale was later told by Ryan Coogler in his 2013 film Fruitvale Station

After the success of “They Have Names” t-shirt, Jean-Raymond expressed feeling pigeon-holed as a black designer. Now however, he’s embraced the identity: “I don't think the narrative I was stuck in – the ‘black’ designer category – was going to go away anytime soon,” he told The Washington Post. “I can at least control the conversation. I can say, well, I’m an educated black designer.”

“I don't think the narrative I was stuck in – the ‘black’ designer category – was going to go away anytime soon. I can at least control the conversation. I can say, well, I’m an educated black designer” – Kerby Jean-Raymond

Aside from the “They Have Names” t-shirt, there have been other instances where Jean-Raymond has used fashion to get people to reflect on race. For his SS16 show, the designer paid tribute to Ota Benga, a 23-year-old Congolese man who was exhibited in Bronx Zoo’s Monkey House in 1906. Clothes were emblazoned with portraits of the man, while buckles, straps and cords were incorporated within the designs to represent his captivity.

h/t The Washington Post