One in a series of reports on the clothes that had a moment at New York Fashion Week.

NEW YORK – Sometimes when a designer wants to communicate a message — political, social — that is about more than just the width of a pair of trousers or the size of a lapel, things can get a little ponderous. Humor goes missing.


A model shows off a creation by Kerby Jean-Raymond (Maria Valentino/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

But Kerby Jean-Raymond, the designer of the Pyer Moss brand, gave his audience a dose of humor, a few things to think about, an empathetic ear and some fine-looking clothes.

He has delivered powerful messages before. For spring, it was about police brutality and Black Lives Matter. This time, his show called to mind a less specific ache.


Models walked the runway to a choir and classical quintet. (Maria Valentino/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

With an operatic choir singing to the music of an classical quintet, his models strolled out in menswear: quilted trousers, teddy-bear fur coats, varsity-style bombers, long shorts over jogging pants. The clothes were in the zone of overlap between tailoring and gym clothes — and so, yes, you’d want to take a meeting in them, run for the subway in them and head to happy hour in them.


Suitable for gym, office meeting or happy hour? (Maria Valentino/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

But in the music and in the styling, which was given an assist by singer Erykah Badu, who brought along her own collection of eyewear and hats, there was a sense of the exasperating, stressful, absurd culture of the moment. There are problems we cannot control, wishes that are threadbare, ambition turned ugly. Life is a little crazy right now. Grab a smiley face pin! Self-medicate!


Who doesn’t understand this model’s message? (Maria Valentino/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

One model held up a placard — a poster of surrender: “My demons won today. I’m sorry.” And can’t we all relate to that?

Jean-Raymond and Badu watched the show from the audience. Soaking it all in. When the show ended, they stood and accepted the applause and headed backstage. The choir was left to sing — soulfully and hopefully — strains of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The black American national anthem. Suggesting that we could all use a little uplift — but maybe, especially, people of color.


Singer Erykah Badu and designer Kerby Jean-Raymond (Maria Valentino/MCV Photo For The Washington Post)

 

EARLIER:

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How Jason Wu electrified the power suit at New York Fashion Week

Kanye West’s refugee-camp fashion show was stunning. (The clothes, not so much.