NYFW: Pyer Moss Explores True Origins of Rock 'n' Roll in Brooklyn Blowout

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Rock ’n’ roll flash on the runway (left); Kerby Jean-Raymond

At the historic Kings Theatre venue, hundreds turned out for designer Kerby Jean-Raymond's show with live musicians, a full choir and 'Stranger Things' star Caleb McLaughlin among the runway cast.

“They've been telling us all the cowboys were John Wayne white, they've been telling us all our families were cracked up and cracked out, they been telling us they invented rock and roll. We know the truth. We know a queer black woman named Sister Rosetta Tharpe made rock ‘n’ roll. We know Little Richard made rock ‘n’ roll. We know Jimmy Hendrix made rock ‘n’ roll.”

With that crowd-stirring preamble from a lone figure on an imposing rectangular catwalk — celebrated author Casey Gerald — designer Kerby Jean-Raymond drew the curtain about an hour before midnight Sunday evening on Pyer Moss, one of the most anticipated shows of New York Fashion Week.

In front of a crowd of hundreds at Brooklyn’s historic Kings Theatre in East Flatbush, a transparent scrim rose on an all-black choir of 65 formally attired vocalists, with a white-suited piano player and a number of similarly dressed accompanists in the "pit" of the square runway, before a front row that included Joey Badass, P. J. Tucker, Rudy Gay, Victor Cruz, Justine Skye, Normani and ASAP Ferg.

The first look out was a glittering woman’s trouser suit with a geometric pattern that simultaneously evoked a piano keyboard, ‘40s Cubism and theatrical posters. The collection, titled “Sister,” was an ode to long-ignored ‘30s and ‘40s singer-songwriter Tharpe, and indeed all of rock ‘n’ roll, with chic echoes of Hendrix, Little Richard and anyone who has ever picked up a guitar. 

A measured parade of more than 65 styles followed, for men and women, on models supposedly cast from the surrounding community. On first glance, the takeaway was a profusion of regal but exuberant hues of persimmon, key lime, cobalt blue and buttercup yellow in flowing satins and more structural silks fit for music royalty. 

Recognizable rock influences appeared here and there — a burnished brown bag in the form of a miniature guitar, a black-and-white keyboard edging the top of a two-piece gown, a fretwork pattern in jeans and jackets. The familiar silhouette of a guitar was also repeated in such varied pieces as the lapel on a blue men’s jacket suit, a tracing on a billowing women’s poncho or the side of a guy’s billowing trouser leg.

Jean-Raymond, who raised industry eyebrows by declining to show last spring and therefore skipping a season after his much-lauded outing last fall, employed a series of paintings as focal points for several pieces. The artwork was commissioned from Richard Phillips, who was exonerated after spending 45 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. 

The designer, newly named to the CFDA board of directors by incoming chairman Tom Ford, has also just taken on a new role as artistic director at Reebok, overseeing a new division called Reebok Studios that will function as a talent incubator. Kicking off the sporty section of the show was actor Caleb McLaughlin of Stranger Things wearing the first look; the Reebok-collab streetwear pieces included an instantly covetable sneaker, abstracted-motif tracksuits and a black leather anorak.

Pyer Moss further unveiled a collaboration with one of Jean-Raymond’s early mentors, Sean Jean. Those looks had a late-‘90s flavor in a pieced leather jeans suit, a breast-grazing cropped white shirt and a lounge crimson velvet turnout. 

And in this pre-election year, Jean-Raymond referenced the stakes of the current political climate with a timely admonition. Worn with a pair of elaborately draped sky-blue pants, a model showed a sleeveless slogan tee that put it all in stark relief: VOTE OR DIE, FOR REAL THIS TIME.