The runway is increasingly a platform for political statements – think Kanye West’s refugee-themed show earlier this month, or Vivienne Westwood’s ‘Vote Green‘ show last fall. New York Fashion Week brought a new topic to the table this week when Pyer Moss debuted an AW16 line meant to get people talking about depression.
Kerby Jean-Raymond designed the line around the idea of the double bind: a situation where an individual receives two or more conflicting sets of instructions. “You should do this for me because you want to, not because I’ve asked you to,” is a double bind–by being asked, you’ve been put in a position where you can do nothing but fail. If you need to be mentally healthy to do your job but seeking mental health support will cause you to lose your job, that’s another double bind.
Content warning: Link contains discussion of suicide
According to Refinery29, Jean-Raymond was specifically thinking of the double binds that affect black communities in America.
It’s a time when young Black men are told that they are are too violent when they agitate for change, but then are blamed when they don’t assert themselves. Black women are told they are impotent and powerless, but are expected to have supernatural resilience. Black communities are told that they need to keep their history in the past, but also to not question the fact that they’re still living out the effects of systematic discrimination that have kept communities in poverty.
That tension was reflected in a show that featured an alpaca robe coat that calls to mind the lines of a straightjacket, a sweatshirt listing a litany of side effects, and pins labelled with “Zoloft” and “Xanax.”
The show also featured a placard honoring the final words of MarShawn McCarrel: “My demons won today. I’m sorry.”
But heavy as it is, depression doesn’t have to be a dark topic. By some accounts, the Pyer Moss show was light-hearted, even uplifting.
And with that, it’s made the topic a little easier to broach in public.