Black History Month + Fashion Week: Political Fashion Favorites

By Jaylin Paschal

Recho Omondi of Omondi and Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss are two of my favorite designers in the industry right now. Not only are they masterful manipulators of color, texture and fabric, but they are political storytellers in execution and business management. 

Omondi takes a very direct approach to the integration of politics and fashion. Her social media posts often regard sociopolitical topics in the mainstream, like Instagram posts about the James Baldwin documentary "I Am Not Your Negro" and the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. on his namesake holiday. This February, as a Black History Month special, she's selling embroidered sweatshirts that read "Niggas" in the upper-left corner. This piece is slightly humorous as it puts the controversial, out-of-context phrase in the perfect position of a conversation starter. The Kenyan designer has a fresh perspective on both fashion and politics. “I grew up in the trenches of White America — deep in it,” she told New York Magazine. “My childhood was a contrast of being a 9 year old and spending months in a city like Nairobi [where] everyone’s black, and then going back to Oklahoma, and everyone is a very particular breed of white.” In response to this background, Omondi casts black women with varying skintones, sure to create space for models with dark skin. "I'm really interested in the story of black people on the planet,” Omondi told The Daily Beast. “I feel like it’s a really fascinating and integral part of world history, and it’s the least often told.”

Jean-Raymond has designed political t-shirts listing the names of police brutality victims (profits from the first 250 of 1,000 shirts sold were donated to the American Civil Liberties Union), screened a short film on race relations at his spring 2016 fashion show, donated supplies to Dakota access pipeline protestors and created a collection exploring economic disparity (The New York Times). Recently, he's began to explore the issue of immigration in a collection reflective of his father, who is Haitian immigrant. Jean-Raymond built the Pyer Moss brand on making bold political statements through his work and at his events, one of which was DeRay McKesson's first ever fashion shows. "The approach to go full-tilt political—and to use his own legal documents as a centerpiece for his collection—is notable because it shows how committed Jean-Raymond is to the cause, even in the face of potential harm to his bottom line (Complex)." 

So, as the first day of New York Fashion Week has come to a close and the shows go on this Black History Month, it's only right to take some times out to appreciate your favorite designers who are not only black, which is dope. But are black and political; crafting thoughtful pieces and curating thought-provoking showcases.

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