After six months of designing the classical “new wave” coat US Vice President Kamala Harris wore during inauguration week, Pyer Moss has been historical again following its creative director Kerby Jean-Raymond becoming the first Black designer to show at Paris couture week.
Bringing to spotlight the Black camp, it called to mind one of Raymond’s fore-bearers Patrick Kelly, whose exaggerated, racially tinged clothes told an off-the-catwalk story of American culture.
The Pyer Moss showcases Duchamp-meets-Moschino levels of surrealism. Household objects which were created by Black inventors were blown up and worn as couture. It was a cartoonish feast for the eyes: there was a peanut butter container worn as a dress, an early model mobile worn as chaps, a cape decorated entirely in hair rollers, and a lampshade worn as a hat.
But beyond the Warhol-ism commentary, at its core was a deeper meaning about black erasure. It was in keeping with previous shows like American, Also: Lesson 1 (which focused on the historically forgotten black cowboy) and American, Also: Lesson 3 (about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a Black, female founder of rock’n’roll). Wat U Iz seemed to be largely about Black joy, but also the reality of living as a Black person in modern America dealing with the legacy of slavery and the ongoing fight for reparations.
The highlight of the event was the showcase of two startling outfits: a puffer coat that resembled a black hand carrying a mop and a lifesize fridge accessorized with brightly colored fridge magnets eliciting the question: ‘but who invented Black trauma?’
A provoking in-person speech from former Black Panther, Elaine Brown, impinging on the fight for racial equality, underlined the show’s message about everyday racism, servitude, and wearing your culture (and clothes) as armor.