Four months ago, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalists were announced, kicking off a stretch of studio visits, challenges, collaborations, and fashion shows to determine the designer that would take home the grand prize of $400,000. The ten finalists included Batsheva (Batsheva Hay), Bode (Emily Adams Bode), Christian Cowan, Hunting Season (Danielle Corona), Jonathan Cohen (Jonathan Cohen and Sarah Leff), Luar (Raul Lopez), Matthew Adams Dolan, Pyer Moss (Kerby Jean-Raymond), Rebecca de Ravenel, and Scosha (Scosha Woolridge). On Monday night, Pyer Moss, the New York-based unisex label founded in 2013, was named the winner. Bode and Jonathan Cohen were the runners-up.
“It took 18 years in the industry and a few years with Pyer Moss, but we are here now and I’m really happy,” Jean-Raymond tells Refinery29. “It means we’re being accepted in this space but most importantly it means we’re being understood, which is what we care most about.” He continued: “This win means the next generation of people of colour designers don’t need to conform, they can be themselves, they can be authentic and people will love you for it. I hope we made the barrier of entry less scary for the kids that look like us.”
This is a full circle moment for the designer. When Issa Rae hosted the CFDA Awards in June — she was the first Black woman to do so — she wore custom a custom Pyer Moss royal blue one-shoulder jumpsuit with an overlay made up of over 180,000 Swarovski crystals. Embroidered on Rae's belt was the phrase “Every N*gga Is A Star,” a lyric lifted from Boris Gardiner’s song of the same name, which Kendrick Lamar sampled for “Wesley’s Theory,” ; the latter track was performed by a gospel choir during the label's fall 2018 runway show.
Jean-Raymond says the phrase spoke to both him and Rae. “It was a last minute idea that tied in the messages of our last show as well as Issa’s artistry,” he told Refinery29 in June, of the belt. But what else would you expect from a designer who's no stranger to using fashion as a form of protest? In 2014, Pyer Moss created the “They Have Names” shirt, honouring the memories of 11 Black men killed by police brutality; this past year, he created an updated version of the top, “Even More Names,” for Colin Kaepernick to wear in his GQ ‘Man of the Year’ spread.
In September, he presented a seemingly radical idea for the fashion industry for his spring 2019 show: Jean-Raymond “created a world devoid of angst of racism and imagined what Black American life would be like if it were had been left untouched, unmolested, and unbothered,” according to a press release at the time. It was a moment that clearly resonated. Jean-Raymond hopes this opportunity will help him create more meaningful moments, and also help to champion new talent.