Many designers are inspired by Mom
This one took his fashion cues from Dad
NEW YORK — DESIGNERS SPEND A LOT OF TIME explaining the influence their mothers had on their lives — both professional and personal. Proenza Schouler is named after the two designers’ mothers; Joseph Altuzarra and Zac Posen both involved their moms in the operation of their labels, and Tracy Reese’s was her first publicist. And Michael Kors will be happy to tell you how much his mother’s style steered his own esthetic sensibility.
But it’s rare for a designer to talk about the impact of their father. Not even menswear designers spend much time reminiscing about the clothes Dad might have worn.
Perhaps fathers have less of a visual impact on their children. Could it be that they are less likely to engage the creative half of their offspring’s brain — or too preoccupied to get involved in Junior’s business? It seems hard to believe. Truth be told, our culture just puts mothers under a brighter spotlight. Motherhood is painted with a mystical quality.
Look no further than the ecstasy that greeted Beyoncé’s bedazzled madonna at the Grammys. Meanwhile, fathers are perceived as human, flawed, secondary — which is wholly unfair, because fathers have their own special empowering, charismatic, loving magic.
And so it was notable that the designer Kerby JeanRaymond, founder of the label Pyer Moss, used the story of his father’s early years as a Haitian immigrant in New York as inspiration for his fall 2017 collection. The Tuesday night show, “My Father as I Remember from 19801999,” was the first in a series that Jean-Raymond plans to do about his parents.
In a brief, handwritten sketch of his father’s life during those two decades, the designer explained to his audience how Jean-Claude Jean-Raymond, a taxi driver living in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush, won the lottery and used the money to attend school. He eventually opened a shop called “Top Tech Electronics.”
And when his wife died, he was left to raise their son, Kerby, alone.
Before the show began, the designer appeared from backstage and joked that he was “breaking the fourth wall” to explain a bit about the presentation to his packed, standing-room audience. His relationship with his father, who was in attendance, is complicated, he said.
But as the show unfolded, it was also evident that there was love in that relationship, as well as respect.
The clothes — presented as a live chorus sang an African-American spiritual and a multicultural array of other tunes — had the off-kilter look that so often defines the style of true eccentrics moving to their own melody, who have not yet been overwhelmed by the rules and expectations of their community, who are not wholly assimilated.
The suits had too-wide shoulders, the overcoat lapels were extreme. The fit isn’t tailored; it gives the body greater presence. The trousers, with their loose cut, had the look of a chenille bedspread. A silver shirt that looked like it was stitched from a cuddly bathrobe. The sweatpants — well, they just looked like sweatpants, dressed up with an overcoat.
And there were T-shirts and sweatshirts printed with a picture of his father in his younger years, along with his nickname — honouring him as a kind of rock star.
These were not experimental clothes but clothes with a story and a history. They were a reminder that style helps explain to the world who we are — or who we would like to be. And in this case, style is helping a son reconsider his relationship with his father.
Kerby Jean-Raymond, founder of menswear label Pyer Moss, heads to his Manhattan studio. His designs this season were inspired by his dad, who raised him alone after his mom died.
Jean-Claude Jean-Raymond, left, arrived in New York from Haiti in 1980. He chats with his son, fashion designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, during their visit in Brooklyn in January.