Lena Waithe and Kerby Jean-Raymond at the 2019 Met Gala (Instagram)

The 2019 Met Gala has come and gone and left in it’s wake major fashion disasters and winners. Some stars came to create scenes while others came to make a statement. Hollywood it-showrunner Lena Waithe and it-fashion designer Kerby Jean-Raymond represent the latter, reminding folks that black, queer culture is the foundation of “Camp.” The dynamic duo arrived on the pink carpet wearing 80s style suits with the words “Black Drag Queens Invented Camp,” emblazoned across Waithe’s back. The pinstripes on the suits were actually lyrics to Diana Ross’ iconic hit, “I’m Coming Out.” Using words on his clothing is one of Jean-Raymond’s signatures. The suits also featured buttons designed by it-jeweler Johnny Nelson which highlighted iconic rap artists like Nas, Tupac and Nipsey Hussle and LGBTQ icons like RuPaul, Olivia St. Laurent and Willie Ninja.

(Photo: Instagram/LenaWaithe)

The 2018 CFDA (The Council of Fashion Designers of America) nominee for Emerging Talent and 2019 CFDA nominee for Menswear Designer of the Year (Pyer Moss) is committed to telling black stories — American stories — through his fashion so much so that he says 20 percent of his clothing is about fashion and 80 percent is about stories.

The Haitian-America, NYC born fashion designer has been working in fashion since age 15, when he worked under the tutelage of legendary fashion designer Kay Unger. He worked with Unger honing his craft and experiencing life as a black boy growing into a man in New York City and all that came with it.

At the 2015 New York Fashion Week, Jean-Raymond had his professional breakthrough with Pyre Moss’ show which tackled police brutality and invoked the Black Lives Matter movement. On some of his garments were the words “Breathe,” a nod to Eric Garner who died in 2014 at the hands of six NYPD police officers who put him in a choke hold and sat on him even though he said he couldn’t breathe eleven times during the 19 minute ordeal. Check out a video of Jean-Raymond’s show below (Warning: Not Necessarily Safe for Work):

Since then Jean-Raymond has gone on to be nominated for numerous awards, collaborated with Reebok on a luxury men’s sneaker line and launched several collections including American Also which is a three-part re-telling of American History through three different collections that center on black Americans. Jean-Raymond says the idea started from a conversation with other black men discussing how even though they were born in the United States, they don’t feel like they belong here. Check out his interview with High Snobiety below:

Jean-Raymond’s latest collaboration is with Reebok and film director Director X entitled Seven Mothers which tells his personal story and the death of his mother at age 7. The film is told through imagery, stories and of course fashion.

Kerby Jean-Raymond is disrupting industries — fashion and film in order to place black people and black culture at the center of the narrative. This disruption includes the 2019 Met which embraced iconic writer Susan Sontag’s strict definition of camp in her iconic 1964 essay, “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” which erases the significance of black and queer culture in the rise of camp in the New York fashion world. Jean-Raymond and Waithe’s fashion statement at the 2019 Met Gala  is in keeping with his style of using fashion to critique and complicate fashion for the betterment of society.

This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual. Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire. 

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