When I found out that I was going to Kerby Jean-Raymond’s Pyer Moss show, I couldn’t feel my legs for a minute and it felt like the room was spinning around me at 100 mph. Granted, I had been to one of the designer’s shows a few seasons ago and had loved every single second of it, but this time, it was extremely different. In just two short years, Kerby has gone from a Black designer to watch to the designer of the moment, and dare I say, a designer of the century. He’s the type of public figure that urban kids can quickly identify, among the Off-Whites and Balenciagas splattered on every streetwear roundup. He’s the fashion designer whose clothing is clean and respectable — he’s not really gimmicky or peacocky just for the sake of show, but his clothes pack a bunch and are well-tailored. He’s the Black designer who straddles this fence between resources and talent, one minute discussing in magazine spreads how he received death threats for his Spring ‘16 show, and then the next minute taking out Kings Theater to well over a thousand spectators as the entire fashion world stopped for a moment in time. Attempting to write about the Pyer Moss S/S 2020 Collection feels like trying to explain what water tastes like to the malnourished, or what love feels like to one who has only known trauma.
I suppose I should also point out that other than the extraordinary rise in Kerby’s career over the past few years, the other reason why the invitation to his show was downright unbelievable to me was because I wasn’t being asked to attend as press. I was simply being asked to attend on my own accord. Working press during NYFW is a marathon, indeed, but it’s also exhausting as hell. Fighting to get quotes, to snap photos, to ensure you’ve received all the assets you need before jet-setting off to the next show or to your laptop to sit down and write, write, write, can feel emotionally and spiritually draining. There were moments throughout the season I had to work press for shows, and that was totally fine: Building TheBlondeMisfit.com has been the act and labor of love that I have sought to create space in, but being Black media and press is also a who’s who game. Sometimes you don’t get the quote, or you don’t get the angle. Sometimes the larger outlet does steal your material and you’re not acknowledged, or everyone else’s team of five has the same responsibilities as your team of one. So to know that for one night, the show of my dreams only asked for me to sit back and enjoy without the added responsibility of work afterwards? I was moved, and after seeing the show, I was thankful.
There are a lot of show reviews on Pyer Moss’s latest collection, and honestly, I stand by them all. There’s interviews, backstage looks, features, and so much more. This third collection focused on the contributions of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, also known as the Black woman who invented Rock’N’Roll. With jewelry done by Johnny Nelson, an entire choir named “The Pyer Moss Tabernacle Drip Choir Drenched in The Blood,” parts of design by Christopher John Rogers, and more, the show was not just Black. It was undeniably Black. The choir sang hits from influential Black women in music, from Lil’ Kim to Tina Turner, as beautifully dripped clothing walked the runway. We saw tailored suits, pleated asymmetric skirting, plunging necklines, and evening wear ready for the red carpet. We saw the color block moto jackets in partnership with Sean John, and the iconic “Vote or Die” T-shirt re-emerge in today’s troubling political climate. But throughout the show, I couldn’t help but find myself putting the phone down in an attempt to just enjoy this moment — it wasn’t the Black models, or the Black clothing, or the Black choir, or the thousand people filled into this theater for this Black man and his team. It was the message of what fashion can be and what it should be.
Friends and family know I believe I’m a fashion ‘outsider’, thus the ‘misfit’ misnomer. Even as I learn and meet more people, take up more space, and fill more rooms, I learn that the collective thought of fashion has changed over the years, and that there are still misunderstood misfits in fashion. There are still people who are thinking in colors, and shapes, and hues, whereas the majority are still thinking about what they had for breakfast that morning. As the models did their final walk and the choir belted out a gospel song that’s lyrics sought for God to make one over again, tears streamed my face as I realized I was sitting in on a moment of history. A reclamation of Black women and our bodies and our narratives, not just in fashion, but in history, was taking place right on the stage in the presence of a multicultural and multidimensional crowd. I felt the spirit in the theater, the same spirit I feel on Sunday mornings when I head to church and reconcile that God’s gotten me through another week, or the same spirit I feel when I give honor and praise in the wee hours in the morning when I know I am spiritually under attack. It’s the same spirit I know my mommy and grandmommy felt walking the floorboards as they prayed to a Creator to make a way out of no way, and surely, He always did. I felt God’s face shine upon us and confirm that we, as a people, would be alright. But more importantly, I saw what divine manifestation can look like for another when you walk in purpose.
That is what is missing from these show reviews I’ve been reading, who have accurately discussed the beauty of the clothing, or the choir, or the resounding speech that started the show. The show reviews that probably gave you the backstory of how droves of people were standing outside the Theater for blocks and blocks, hundreds, if not thousands of people there just to see if they could buy a ticket. I’m sure you’ve read the reviews of people discussing the power and the magnitude of Kerby’s show, some even calling it his “church” and what’s next in fashion. But walking away, I saw the purpose of something so much more than clothing or a review. Sunday night is a hope for anyone out there with a dream and a prayer, with faith the size of a mustard seed, that if it’s of God, He can truly change the game with your gifts. He can change the industry with your talents. The clothes and the music and celebrity sightings are all gravy to the entré, which brings us back to center and makes us question for the rest of our lives are we operating in purpose or are we solely skating by.
I want to thank Kerby for relighting a fire within me and all who attended. For honoring the Black women who have come before, and will undoubtedly come after us. And for all of those who understand now more than ever we can reclaim that power and use it to channel true change in the industry. I never want that feeling I felt to die, nor the feeling that being an ‘outsider’ is wrong when God is using your vision for a larger purpose. The world stopped for Kerby, they can stop for us as well.