The New York Fashion Week runway is a distant trek from the campaign trail, yet this year, one designer is using the economic policies of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and contrasting them with one-percent champion Bernie Madoff.
Designer Kerby Jean-Raymond crafted a collection for Pyer Moss using his activism as part of his art. The sounds of a soft choir were drowned out by the ca-ching of cash registers ringing.
Jean-Raymond told the Observer he originally titled the collection "Money Problems," because it surrounded so many different economic issues. "It all revolves around economics as it pertains to me and as it pertains to the brand," he explained. "But also as it pertains to young people and all the things we’re dealing with—graduating from college and not being able to get jobs, society’s obsession with wealth, the presidential election and everything like that."
Over the last few months, Jean-Raymond said that he's struggled financially trying to stay afloat and not sell out. "'Bernie versus Bernie,' for me, is these two extremes of capitalism. It’s Bernie Sanders, the ultimate socialist, and Bernie Madoff, the ultimate capitalist."
He explained designers and idealists want to live in a world where money doesn't matter. However, "we’re constantly having to go head-to-head with the Bernie Madoffs of the world who just want more and more money. In the past three years as a designer, I can’t tell you how many charlatans I’ve dealt with, who are trying to use us and manipulative us. It’s a jab at all of them, but at the same time, it’s very therapeutic to get it all off my chest."
T-shirts on the runway read things like "Please, speak only to my attorney," "Come shake the money tree" and "You don't have any friends in LA."
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Jean-Raymond explained that he wanted to take the typical suit-uniform a "Wall Street douchebag" would wear and deconstruct it. "What he wears to go play squash at the Hilton racquet club to what he wears to work to Martha’s Vineyard and the Hamptons–it’s inverted," he explained.
The result is everything from a high school letter jacket reading GREED to a white turtle neck under a denim shirt and shorts with a tuxedo stripe seemingly done in the same material as the windbreaker. Others seem to be a patchwork of denim with a blue and white striped shirt and white collar one would see parading down Wall Street. One style is a winter white double-breasted suit jacket with a slight black pinstripe paired with what seems to be black leather shorts. The GREED theme appears again on a black sweater speckled with white that one would expect to see on the slopes in Vail.
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The shoes, designed by Salehe Bembury, make it seem as if the shoes are sinking.
A photo posted by Salehe Bembury (@salehebembury) on
"Systemically, there hasn’t been an oppression more overt and long lasting than economic oppression against black people and minorities in this country," said Jean-Raymond, citing historic injustices like the Tulsa race riots, slavery and Jim Crow laws and all others that stop African Americans from economic advancement.
"I think it’s very prevalent today," he explained. "Even as a business owner with a decent credit score, I haven’t been able to secure a loan in the whole 13 years that I’ve been doing this. They’ll offer you a predatory loan or come back and say you need collateral, but if you’re a first generation immigrant or you don’t have a history of ancestry of wealth, where are you going to get this collateral from? A lot of us who are creative and have all these great ideas just don’t have the money to do it. What you end up doing is getting to bed with these people who do have money and lineage of wealth."
Last season, Jean-Raymond worked with Erykah Badu to design a collection surrounding the theme of mental health and depression. He had models hold signs during the final walk that read, "My demons won today, I'm sorry."