New York Fashion Week convenes some of the world’s most stylish personalities and creative forces. They travel from miles away to witness the emerging talents driving new perspective to the fashion industry. Over the years, the show experience has been just as important as the clothes design. Pyer Moss has built a reputation for imbuing purpose into his shows and a vision that highlights black cultural impact on the world. Witnessing this harmony of passion and purpose was the perfect way to spend my Sunday.
I started my shift at noon and walked into a busy Kings Theatre, buzzing with the sound of construction work, production staff pacing back and forth to tie up loose ends, and models sprinkled throughout. My first order of business was to check in with Brittney Escovedo, founder of Beyond 8, the event firm responsible for producing Pyer Moss’s shows.
She looks at me with a half smile: “We’re behind schedule,” she sighs, “this stage should’ve been built four hours ago.” Brittney loves schedules and more time. Even though she’s seemingly annoyed with the hiccup, she maintains her cool and keeps a stoic focus. “You’ll be working Front of House tonight, I’m going to walk you through what that’ll look like.” After a 15 minute debrief, Brittney is called to a more pressing matter – making sure clothes delivery is on schedule and stage is ready in time for a walkthrough.
I’m left to fend for myself, and the first order of business is meeting team leads. Working a fashion week event is more chaos than order, and I don’t think any amount of debrief would prepare me for the 3,000+ attendees that would show up once doors opened. One thing I became acutely aware of is that New Yorkers don’t like queues and a bottle neck effect started forming at the door – even though almost EVERYONE would end up getting in. I also realized that the perception of importance is a lackluster entitlement issue that you grow out. It’s very unattractive and those who subscribed to it, the “I’m on the list”, “I have a VIP coming”, “can you check my name first please”, missed the entire point of the show. Nearly 1,000 invites had been extended to the public so that more people could experience the show. This was about accessibility and not access, visibility and not being seen, community and not individualism. That was not lost on me, and those concepts became even more clear as soon as the show began.
“American, Also.” is a three-part collection by Pyer Moss created to uncover stories of black peoples’ contribution to popular American culture. The designer looks to tell stories of the erased through fashion, film, music and fine art to give a national platform to black history.
In 2018 Pyer Moss launched the thesis with the runway show “Cowboy,” which paid homage to those black men and women who served as labor hands and crafted the cowboy and rodeo culture. The show was followed by a 9-part documentary that uncovered stories of modern-day cowboys, pioneers, educators and activists in NYC, Chicago, Compton, and Baltimore.
For “American, Also; Lesson 2” named “Normal” Pyer Moss focused on telling stories of the common black family experience. The installation was showcased at the historic Weeksville Heritage Center. Followed by runway shows in Shanghai and Lagos.
For the 2019 thesis “American, Also; Lesson 3.” named “Sister” Pyer Moss focused on the contributions of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the black woman who pioneered Rock ‘N’ Roll. The collection used artwork by recently exonerated artist, Richard Phillips, to commemorate Tharpe’s life. For the series finale, the location was set at Kings Theatre. A historic concert hall in the designer’s hometown of Flatbush, Brooklyn. As part of the show, 71 members of the Pyer Moss Tabernacle Drip Choir Drenched in the Blood sang medleys that combined gospel songs with contemporary classics as models walked down a white runway built to extend beyond the stage. Their pace and each look timed to harmonize with the live choir.
Every production element worked in harmony and I am so thankful I was able to contribute to that #blackgirlmagic.
Photo story by Noemie Marguerite