Prior to being sworn in as the 49th Vice President of the United States — making her the first woman, Black, and South Asian American to hold that title in the history of the Republic — Kamala Harris paid tribute to the 400,000 Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19. For the occasion, which took place at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, Harris wore a coat designed by New York-based brand Pyer Moss.
The Instagram photo shows Harris hand-in-hand with her husband Doug Emhoff, with the then-VP-elect wearing the single-breasted camel coat, featuring an asymmetric shape on the back with cascading pleats running down it. Underneath, she wore a black turtleneck sweater, a matching pleated skirt, and a face mask. A pair of black, knee-high boots accompanied the look. “Though we may be physically separated, we, the American people are united in spirit,” said the caption of the post.
While reposting Harris’ photo, Pyer Moss tagged its creative director, Kerby Jean-Raymond, and Priscella Shum, the vice president of production and design management. According to The Boston Globe series titled A Beautiful Resistance, which highlights Black joy and Black lives, Shum worked with Jean-Raymond to create the Vice President-elect’s outerwear for the eve of Inauguration Day. She also had a hand in designing Cardi B’s head-to-toe Reebok look when she was the global design manager at Reebok Classic. It was at Reebok that she began working with Jean-Raymond, who, in addition to helming his own brand, is also the global creative director at the U.K.-founded sportswear brand.
The choice to wear Pyer Moss to the COVID-19 memorial is significant. In March, following New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that shelter-in-place orders would soon be put into effect, Jean-Raymond was one of the first in fashion to stop production in order to repurpose his studio and offices to donation centers for PPE. The brand also donated $50,000 to support minority- and women-owned small businesses struggling to cover costs due to the pandemic.
Jean-Raymond, who is Haitian-American and hails from Brooklyn, is regarded as a symbol of Black success in fashion. He consistently utilizes his success to share Black stories and celebrate Black culture through his popular shows during New York Fashion Week and with his long-standing collaboration with Reebok. Despite being a household name in the industry, 2020 brought with it unprecedented wins for the designer. Jean-Raymond’s pieces made it on multiple major magazine covers, including Vanity Fair’s September issue featuring Angela Davis and Zendaya’s InStyle feature that showcased the Euphoria star in only Black designers. In September, he won Harlem’s Fashion Row Designer of the Year award, and the CFDA Award for American Menswear Designer of the Year the very next day.
Standing close by Harris and Emhoff at the memorial were then-President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden. For the occasion, the First Lady-to-be wore a purple coat and dress by New York-based label Jonathan Cohen. The look, according to The New York Times fashion director Vanessa Friedman, is titled “Unity” by the designer, who also made Biden’s mask using recycled materials. The color purple, which is often regarded in U.S. politics as the symbol of bipartisanship, was often also used during the Women’s Suffrage Movement, along with white and orange. According to the National Park Service, purple is "the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, [and] unswerving steadfastness to a cause." At the time, it also represented freedom and dignity.
“Waking up with immense pride and gratitude. Here’s to a new day,” Cohen wrote on Instagram on Wednesday morning. Cohen, an alum of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, focuses much of his attention on sustainability. His namesake brand, which he runs with CEO Sarah Leff and an otherwise small team, does so in part using The Studio, an offset of the brand that repurposes materials from past collections to reduce waste. Their most notable upcycled item — at least for now — is Dr. Biden’s face mask from the memorial, which is available for purchase now at The Studio.