Earlier this month, we wrote about the fact that women in politics will always be judged based on what they wear. While I'm not suggesting Kamala Harris is an avid Highsnobiety reader, the Vice President-elect's latest fashion choice shows she's embodying this thesis in a huge way.
At yesterday's Covid memorial, President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, along with Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, gathered on the National Mall in Washington DC to honor the more than 400,000 American lives lost to the pandemic so far. It was a somber occasion and a display of the grace and solidarity that has been missing from American leadership for four years. The classic camel coat that Harris chose to wear for the occasion was also a mark of solidarity. The piece is by Pyer Moss-founder Kerby Jean-Raymond, the Black designer who led the way in the fashion industry's response to America's Covid-19 crisis.
Last March, while the Trump administration was dismissing the severity of the virus – and disparagingly referring to it as "the China virus" – the Haitian-American designer quickly converted his New York office into a donation center for PPE and also pledged $50,000 for minority and female-owned independent businesses in distress.
In the fashion industry and beyond Jean-Raymond has become a vanguard of change. Not only did he step up when the government wouldn't, but for years his brand continually evolved its narrative of meaningful social commentary. In 2020, he took the CFDA to task for failing to address Black Lives Matter protests and the systemic racism that has long been prevalent in the fashion industry.
While many brands hurried to join the "BLM-hype" and clouted calls to "defund the police" when it became briefly fashionable last year, his belief was already woven into Pyer Moss' brand mission.
"Now, this is divine intervention. We got a pandemic, no sports, no distractions, no new movies coming out, no concerts — nothing. The world has to focus on the same Black shit we've been trying to get done for the past several years," Kerby Jean-Raymond told Highsnobiety last June. "We never had a movement free of distractions the way that we do. Now all you can do is pick a side — and if you don't pick a side, that means you picked a side."
For the women in the White House (who until now have only been First Ladies) the designers they choose to champion send a clear message to the world. And on the eve of her inauguration, Harris' endorsement was an important choice: This isn't just an outfit, this is picking a side.
It signified the first Black Vice President (to-be) standing on the National Mall wearing a Black designer. This is signaling that the change the American people hoped and voted for is upon us. In the same way that Jean-Raymond has dedicated his work to uplifting Black people, Harris' imminent swearing into office amplifies that message to the world.