The first Black American to present haute couture as a guest of the Chambre Syndicale paid homage to Black innovation.
A rain delay couldn’t put a damper on Kerby Jean-Raymond’s haute couture debut for Pyer Moss, which finally walked on Saturday afternoon.
The original time slot assigned by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture might not have worked out (not that the crowd assembled in Irvington, New York on Thursday minded — it was quite the party), but Haute Couture Fashion Week was willing to wait. Same goes for the guests, who came together at Madam C.J. Walker’s Villa Lewaro a second time over the weekend, eager to witness fashion history.
With the Wat U Iz show, Jean-Raymond became the first Black American to present a couture collection as a guest of the Chambre Syndicale. And the designer used the opportunity to pay homage to a long, often overlooked history of Black innovation.
Referencing a list housed in the Library of Congress, Jean-Raymond showed a series of Pyer Moss-ified, three-dimensional wearable sculptures, each representing a well-known product invented by a Black person — from the automatic traffic signal (Garrett Morgan) to the portable air conditioner (Frederick Jones) to the Super Soaker (Lonnie Johnson). “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,” he told Vogue.
Underneath, there are some elegant evening wear propositions: a pale blue cutout gown with a crinoline skirt (part of the horseshoe look, a tribute to Oscar E. Brown), a white off-the-shoulder shirtdress (styled with a folding chair, a nod to Nathaniel Alexander) and a long-sleeved pink ruched bodycon dress (paired with an oversized beaded-fringe lampshade hat, to represent Lewis Latimer’s electric lightbulb).