Pyer Moss Paid Tribute To Black Lives
Hip-hop rendered in operatic verse is one of those things you didn’t know you needed in your life. Then you experience it, and suddenly, you can’t live without it. I know this because, at the MADE Fashion Week Pyer Moss Fall/Winter ’16 show today, an opera choir and a small orchestra performed Fetty Wap and Future, as well as the Black American National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
For some, and particularly those unfamiliar with the genre, it’s easy to write off hip-hop as just a lot of the same—to only pay attention to the slurs or misogynistic references, and pay no heed to the cadence, lyrics, and expertly crafted rhymes. Hip-hop sung in operatic verse, however, recasts and repackages the music. You can make out the lyrics in a way you often can’t when they’re being rapped, and, by dint of that, you can appreciate them more.
It was cool to see the clothes that I had seen hanging on racks at the Pyer Moss studio last week come to life—and even cooler to see how Erykah styled them. That’s Erykah Badu, for the uninformed. As Kerby Jean-Raymond, the founder and designer of Pyer Moss, mentioned in the studio visit, it took only putting the word out there that he was interested in working with Erykah for her to reach out and ask to collaborate. And this wasn’t the only person Kerby collaborated with on the collection either; Maurice Scarlett, an amply talented artist Kerby found on Instagram, is responsible for all of the colorful prints.
As for the collection as a whole, it was the dream winter outfit. There were beefy, shearling jackets—some embellished with striking, rose gold stripes—as well as pants, jumpsuits, overalls, and jackets made out of what looked like quilted sleeping bag material. The clothes were comfy and cozy, but still impeccably designed, styled, and made. Jackets that barely brushed the floor looked like glorified, regal blankets; suit pants were given casual, track pant stripes; and black baseball jackets came with soft and supple leather sleeves.
I could say the collection looked like what I imagine Leo throws on after a tame 20 minutes on the elliptical. I could say that it was designed for Justin Bieber to traipse about in, and to then remove when he inevitably moons his bodyguards and some archaeological ruins. But the truth is that the Pyer Moss Fall/Winter ’16 collection and show were successful displays of incredibly skillful design, steeped in a really serious and important message. For the final look, a model came out carrying a picket sign that read, “My demons won today I’m sorry”—the final words MarShawn McCarrel II, a Black Lives Matters activist, said before he committed suicide this week. In light of that, it was hard not to see the hats in the show as less newsboy style and more a nod to police. Cops have taken so many black lives; perhaps this was Kerby and Erykah’s way of subsuming the lives or identities of cops, if only to try and restore what they’ve been so brutally robbed of.
After the show, and elbowing through throngs of fans, I chatted with Kerby and Maurice about the show, and what it was like working with Erykah.
Congratulations on the show! This is Maurice, right?
Kerby Jean-Raymond: Yeah.
[To Maurice]: How was it working with Pyer Moss?
Maurice Scarlett: It was surreal. I’m still taking everything in. But I’m really thankful for the opportunity.
You did the prints right?
MS: No, I did actual paintings that we turned into prints.
Oh ok. Which ones were yours?
KJR: All of the colorful prints that you saw, all that stuff—he did all of them.
Congratulations! Kerby, can you tell me a little bit about the music choice? That was Fetty Wap and Future, right?
KJR: Yeah. It’s the complete opposite of what an opera song should be, but it worked. The last song was “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is considered the Black National Anthem. So we just wanted to do songs that you wouldn’t typically hear in an opera format, and express that double bind, that opposites attract kind-of-thing.
How was it working with Erykah?
KJR: Amazing. She’s so hands-on. How we worked, I did not expect it to work out that way. I didn’t expect her to be in the office with us until two o’clock in the morning. I didn’t expect her to go to another studio and make buttons until four o’clock in the morning. I didn’t expect her to be sourcing materials and doing everything that she was doing. She is a real worker. And it’s not like she has an assistant, she rolls dolo. She’s just showing up, and she’s just like with her little duct tape and her little bags, and she’s doing what she needs to do. The way she carries herself, you wouldn’t know that this is someone with multiple Grammys, who has made millions of dollars with her records, and has a pretty decent life. When she’s working with something, her art comes first.
She did the pins and the hats too?
Cool. What were the taped shoes and ends of pants about?
KJR: She did that at the last minute because it represented stability. We wanted to work within that theme of depression and instability-stability, all sorts of things. It just worked. It just looked really good at the end, in my opinion. The only thing I would have changed about the show was the pace they were walking in.
Too slow or too fast?
KJR: Too slow.
I thought it was great! The sign at the end—can you tell me a little bit about that?
KJR: That was a recent case. A young man shot himself in front of the Ohio Statehouse. You know, he was depressed, and I wish that people around him knew how to deal with depression and really knew how to talk to him because, on the surface, we mask a lot of our depression with social media. On the surface, if you looked on social media and everything like that, he seemed like a guy who was really full of life, and full of everything, but he was dealing with some deep dark demons. Why is it that he couldn’t speak to people that were around him?
I saw that that story and it really troubled me because I’ve been in that position. It was an interesting thing for us, and we discussed it last night and we made the sign right after we had the conversation. We were all reading the news together, and we were like, “Shit this is crazy.” It was the last thing that we made. It literally just happened. But we were just enthralled by this guy’s story. We wanted to honor him and let people know that if they’re dealing with this, they’re not alone, and that it’s ok to talk about it. Let’s open up a meaningful dialogue.
For more Pyer Moss, check out our runway rundown.