Kerby Jean-Raymond’s collection for the Pyer Moss label debuted at New York’s Fashion Week. The show featured video images of violent encounters with the police, including the death of Eric Garner, and Dajerria Becton, the 15-year-old, bikini-clad girl who was manhandled by a policeman at a Texas pool party. Some family members of the victims of police violence were also invited to sit in the coveted front row. The show also featured shoes bearing the now famous “I can’t breathe” phrase. During the show, artist Gregory Siff tagged the words “Breathe Breathe Breathe” on the clothes.
Jean-Raymond’s show was not without controversy. Some fashion aficionados refused to attend. However, Jean-Raymond said it was important that artists address this pressing issue.
“I’m Black, I’m a designer, I’m living in a time when this is happening,” he told The Associated Press. “You’re 28 years old, you’re watching kids younger than you who are being killed by grown men who claim fear as an excuse.”
British model Abby Clee told The Associated Press the show was quite moving.
“I was so blown away by it, it was unreal,” Clee said. “I knew I was definitely moved. I was a bit teary but thought, ‘No, I shouldn’t cry when I’m about to go out.’ I think a lot of people were quite moved, by their faces. Obviously, it means quite a lot to them. I thought the message that they’re sending was absolutely amazing.”
This is not the first time Jean-Raymond has made social activism a part of the fashion world. He previously sold T-shirts featuring the names of people killed in encounters with the police. Part of the proceeds went to the ACLU.
“I didn’t create these shirts with the intent for them to be a catalyst for change,” Jean-Raymond toldComplex. “The opportunity arose for us to partner with the ACLU and my team and I felt compelled make the most of it. […] These shirts are a form of social currency and with the help of our supporters and the ACLU, it’s our hope that they will pay great dividends.”