May 18, 2021
BY: NATHANIEL BALLANTYNE
TRUENEWSBLOG – To call a Haitian American “black American” is to deny his Haitian culture and heritage. Haitian Americans are not “black Americans.” Haiti has its own culture and language that is vastly different from black American culture and it is a very important distinction that most be recognized.
This is not to divide or devalue anyone culture or to say that Haitians are not black. When CNN referred to Kirby Jean-Raymond as the “ first Black American designer” to present at Paris Haute Couture Week, it insulted an entire culture. As a Haitian American I do not refer to myself as “black American” not because I do not appreciate black American culture but simply because I value my own culture too much to want to deny my heritage by falsely associated myself with another culture.
As one person commented in the Haitian Times webpage “Haitians as an ethnic group with its own culture, language, history, etc cannot be designated as Black American, no more can a Jamaican be designated as a Bahamian.”
Kirby Jean-Raymond is the first Haitian American designer to be invited as a “guest member” of the official Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.
The historic first comes amid ongoing conversations about how the fashion industry can combat racial prejudice and disparities within its own ranks and more broadly.
In an interview with CNN Style in 2019, Jean-Raymond described Pyer Moss as an “art project that operates in the fashion space.” The brand, which he founded in 2013, embraces the power of fashion as a storytelling device, often weaving theater, activism and social commentary into its collections and runway shows.
Jean-Raymond’s 2018 project “American, Also,” was a three-part retelling of the American story, which included the history of Black cowboys, as well as the daily experiences of Black families. For the latter, artist Derrick Adams created 11 artworks that reflected Black life, which Jean-Raymond turned into garments shown at New York Fashion Week.
Famous faces who have worn his creations include US Vice President Kamala Harris during the 2021 inauguration events; Angela Davis on the September 2020 cover of Vanity Fair; Zendaya for the September 2020 cover of InStyle magazine; and Colin Kaepernick and Nessa at the 2019 Met Gala.
The announcement of the upcoming Pyer Moss couture collection comes after Jean-Raymond revealed that the brand will also return to New York Fashion Week in September, where he will present a new ready-to-wear collection after a two-year hiatus.
The significance of haute couture
Haute couture, which translates from French to “high dressmaking,” is often regarded as the highest of high fashion. The concept refers to one-of-a-kind, custom garments typically imagined by leading designers and handcrafted by a team of highly skilled artisans. The term itself is a legally protected classification which comes with a strict set of rules.
To carry the label of haute couture and be an official member of the Chambre Syndicale, designers have to show a collection of at least 25 original designs twice yearly at Paris Couture Week. Designers also have to employ an atelier with 20 full-time staff members.
Over the years, the rules of entry into this elite club have loosened up to allow designers who weren’t based in France, known as “correspondent members,” and other guest members to join the official couture schedule. Chinese designer Guo Pei, for example, who designed the yellow gown Rihanna wore to the 2015 Met Ball, was first invited to show in 2019.
Couture Week will take place July 5-8. Further details about the Pyer Moss haute couture collection including its July premiere date and collection specifics will be announced in early June, according to a news release.