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When Pyer Moss Brought Police Brutality to the Runway

by Vanessa Friedman & Jessica Testa

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In the last years, Kerby Jean-Raymond, the founder of Pyer Moss, has become something of a New York Fashion Week star, famous for taking the African-American experience and putting it front and center on the runway, using such inspiration figures as the black cowboy and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. He has won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award, become artistic director of Reebok Studies__ and collaborated with Hennessy.

But in 2015, he almost went out of business after a show that opened with a 12-minute video about police brutality titled “This Is an Intervention.” It featured interviews with the relatives of many of the black men who had been killed by police: Eric Garner, Marlon Brown, Sean Bell. Praised and excoriated in almost equal measure, the show thrust the then largely unknown label into the spotlight, and was the first time a designer forced fashion to grapple with its own culpability regarding race.

In this oral history, journalists Vanessa Friedman and Jessica Testa explores this show, which resulted in death threats, solidified Kerby Jean-Raymond “as a powerful new voice in fashion.”

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