» Erykah Badu Makes Her New York Fashion Week Debut
Erykah Badu Makes Her New York Fashion Week Debut
Written By VDotNam Jones on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 | 14:30
At the start of a new season, designers typically put together what’s
known as a moodboard -- a collage of old photographs, postcards, fabric
swatches, color samples and other mementos that influence the
aesthetics of a new collection. There’s comfort in knowing why something
is the way that it is, in tracing origins -- and these
moodboards always manage to offer up an easy and clear explanation to
the question fashion journalists ask first: “What was your inspiration
that’s where Kerby Jean-Raymond, the 28-year-old creative director of
menswear label Pyer Moss, takes a sharp and radical turn. Jean-Raymond
isn’t interested in moodboards (“I’ve never made one in my entire life”)
or tangible objects as inspiration, for that matter: he’s a designer
who draws fuel from pathos.
The New York native who got his start
interning with Kay Unger at 14 and then Marchesa at 16 made headlines
last September for a collection that interwove themes of police
brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement into the clothing. There
was outerwear with blood-spattered patterns and footage from the deaths
of Eric Garner and Walter Scott that played in the background -- mixed
medium statement pieces that plunged into a political conversation the
overwhelmingly white industry isn’t used to having. (The New York Times reported in 2015 that black designers composed 2.7 percent of labels showing at NYFW.)
and honesty is what compels me to design,” Jean-Raymond, who founded
the label in 2013, says. “I feel a responsibility to be myself, to be
completely relevant in my thoughts and my emotions and not give into
societal pressures. If something is bothering me, I’m going to talk
On Saturday, the focus was mental health. While a quintet and chamber group performed operatic versions of Fetty Wap’s “RGF Island” and Future’s
“Trap N----,” the designer explored the notion of “double bind” -- a
theory first proposed by anthropologist Gregory Bateson that describes
a situation in which a person is confronted with two irreconcilable
demands that can sometimes lead to depression. Mixed in with
the oversized wool coats, trousers and structured turtlenecks were
sweatshirts listing symptoms that require medical attention (panic
attacks, anxiety, hallucinations). At the very end of the show a model
dressed in a sky-blue denim button-down carried a sign that read “My
demons won today / I’m sorry,” a reference to the last statement Black
Lives Matter activist MarShawn M. McCarrel II posted on Facebook before
committing suicide last week.
There to help bring Jean-Raymond’s vision to life was Erykah Badu,
who was initially introduced to the designer through stylist Jason
Rembert a few years ago and flew in from Dallas with seven trunks of
personal accessories to style the show. Though the boundary-pushing
music and style icon (she was the face of Givenchy in 2014) had been on
the road to promote her newest mixtape and at Sundance to promote her
new film The Land, Jean-Raymond notes, “She was there in the
studio until three or four o’clock in the morning making sure that this
shit happened. She is not by any means just a celebrity’s name on top of
Her touch was evident. There were chauffeur and
military-style hats, her signature round and dark-framed sunglasses,
metal jewelry from the designer Ugo Cacciatori and pins with words like
“Zoloft” and “LSD” that Badu made herself. She even embraced the theme
of double bind right down to her own fingernails with one hand painted
in an electric coral hue and the other in bright yellow. “They’re
competing,” she said backstage after the show.
rabbit hole Pyer Moss dove down this season was comparable to reading a
sentence and not understanding some of the words. It was possible as an
attendee to have a visceral response to Jean-Raymond's work, but one
would have been more profoundly rewarded for diving in deeper to
understand the root of his message; Badu and Jean-Raymond uplifted those
who felt compelled to join them. Billboard spoke with the duo backstage at New York’s Milk Studios on Saturday. Here are excerpts from that chat: Erykah, what first drew you to working with Kerby?
I wore his clothes for some interviews and I kept them. You’re not
supposed to keep them, and when I got home, Jason Rembert -- the guy
that pulled the clothes who is a mutual friend of ours -- said, “Kerby
wants the clothes back.”
I was like, “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it” [smiles].
have a super masculine style, silhouette-wise, and I love what he does
with the body. I learned that Kerby had wanted to work with me in some
capacity for a few years. How did the concept of double bind come about, and how did you guys develop that concept?
told me that he had gone through a bout of depression and was in
conflict with his art, relationships, and things. And out of that came
the need to create. Double bind is a term that means two conflicting
ideas that don’t necessarily agree and a solution can’t necessarily be
found; it can lead to depression, and it’s also a degree of bipolarism.
In terms of working with Erykah, how did she affect the collection and the process? What did she contribute to it?
Everything. You know, I didn’t know she was going to be as -- when she
got into it, she got physically into it. She made all of those pins, she
sourced all of those hats, she taped all of those boots, she dressed
all of those models. We worked with Maurice Scarlett on this collection
too, he did the art. It was a good synergy to have between us. Can you tell me about the decision to use the Future song for this show?
First of all, I love the song. I love Future and Fetty Wap because
they’re both Haitian, like me. Trap music within the hip-hop world is
sometimes seen as not being real hip-hop; it’s seen as the bullshit
version of hip-hop because it’s very rhyme-y, catchy hooks. But it’s
still dealing with depression, with insecurities. If you really listen
to that song, to the lyrics of that Future song, he’s insecure as shit!
And I think that’s important to sing it out, so you can hear the words
and really hear how everything is composed.
Erykah, when did you first connect with clothing?
a kid, watching my Mom -- being in love with album covers because we
didn’t have videos. Falling in love with those concepts and things. Is there something you remember getting as a kid that felt very special or impactful to you?
My uncle one Christmas bought me some knee high stockings that were
white lace with a seam in the back, and I would take care of those
stockings. It was around the '80s when Madonna was out, Pretty in Pink.
And I’d wrap them up and put tissue paper around them after I wore
them; if they got a run, I was really careful to sew them. It was a very
special thing. I learned later that they cost something like $1.99. I
felt like I was in the 1920s when I wore the. They always made me feel
good, feminine. You released a mixtape in December, had a film at Sundance and worked with Kerby. Do all of these things interconnect for you?
Yeah, because it all comes out of that same need to create. I don’t
make any money off of any of these things. It is really about a complete
love for the process. The adrenaline right before the show, the
throwing things together at the last minute, staying up all night . . .
that’s why I’m delirious right now. Making the buttons for the hats, all
of those things. In terms of styling, when do you know that a look feels complete?
Sometimes it is. It really just depends on the mood. Sometimes you’re
in those moods when you really don’t care too much, you put the best
shit together. Sometimes it’s like songwriting, the layering the color
palette- - it’s art. You just feel it. There is art in everything. As an artist, what is one of the most valuable lessons that you’ve learned?
EB: To be in the moment. How do you do that?
You just breathe, you count stuff. I’m looking at these words on your
notepad, your jewelry, this watch on your arm; we are here. There are a
lot of things on our minds that cause anxiety that eventually become
depression, worrying about the past and the future. Do you think technology induces that anxiety?
EB: Not if you use it correctly. Kerby, on a larger scale, do you feel that fashion as a medium should be more socially engaged and active?
I mean, why not?! If you look at music, people in music talk about
what’s going on. What’s bothering them. Why does fashion have to be so
elitist? Why does it have to be exclusionary to people with problems?
Why does it have to avoid being part of the bigger conversation? We have
such a huge audience: everyone has to wear clothes. Everyone with these
high end collections has to show the clothes to an audience, so why not
talk about something that’s really on our minds -- whether it’s a human
issue, a social issue, a political issue. And it varies with me.
Sometimes I’m down, sometimes I’m up. This collection was focused on a
time that I was down. And why can’t I talk about that? Why does it have
to be something about veganism or animal rights -- which are important
topics, don’t get me wrong. But is that the only conversation that’s up
for discussion in fashion right now?
It doesn’t make sense to me.
our culture, especially in black culture, it’s taboo to talk about
depression, to talk about when things bother you. People say “man up,”
but that’s not a real diagnosis and I think that it’s important that we
address it. Nina Simone
had a great quote. She said: “How can you be an artist and not
represent the times?” And that’s one of the mottos that I live by.