Inside Pyer Moss’ Haunting Celebration of Black Power at NYFW
Pyer Moss’ show was meaningfully set in Weeksville, Brooklyn, and was an emphatic statement of black celebration and resistance.
In an era of gentrification and reclaiming and repurposing of old names, Weeksville is a different sort of revival. Nestled on the border between Crown Heights and Brownsville, it is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, purchased, founded and settled by the African American freedman, James Weeks, in 1838.
The choice of having a NYFW show at the historical society in this corner of Brooklyn was in and of itself radical, but also not incongruous in any way, and nothing short of what we’ve come to expect and love from Pyer Moss founder Kerby Jean-Raymond.
The evocative venue—where seating was scattered amongst the open fields of the historic lands of the original settlement—was complemented by the moving soundtrack of the evening. Just before the start of the the show, members of a choir dressed in white robes, silently walked the catwalk and set up stage in front of one of the historical Weeksville houses.
The show opened to the choir singing a rendition of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s “Be Real Black for Me.” The first look was a beautiful black woman in a white dress walking hand in hand with a little boy about age 6, also wearing all white.
Moss’ aesthetic of “spiritual sportswear—a hybrid of going to church and going to the gym”—was seen on the runway in a number of street-style and casual wear ensembles.
The clothes came with clear messaging. In a man’s all-white ensemble, a cumberbund read: “See us now,” and the FUBU (For Us By Us) emblem and logo featured in multiple looks.
Rarely is a fashion show an emotionally moving event, but Pyer Moss challenged those standards. It was a layered show where those who just cared about fashion could revel in the beautiful dresses and hand-painted and pleated ensembles, and those who wanted more could take notice of the locale and the demographics.
Those who still wanted more could look for the subtle and not-so-subtle referencing of the historical and current contribution that Black Americans make to our collective culture and the value and beauty of those contributions.
As the show neared the end the choir changed to a chant: “Get out the way, the out the way yeah, you either with me or against me” and then seamlessly into Stevie Wonder’s "Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away."
As the last looks walked the runway Wonder’s 40 year old lyrics punctuated each step and each look, questioning what it means to be black in our society: “But if there is a God, we need Him now...Why must my color black, make me a lesser man? I thought this world was made for every man, he loves us all, that’s what my God tells me, and I say it’s taken him so long, because we got so far to come…”