“Do you feel American?”—this vague and open ended question elicits a myriad of answers from all citizens and immigrants in the United States. A simple ‘yes’ answer would suffice and longer affirmative answers are expected, but what if the answer is ‘no?’ Can one understand how a born and bred American citizen does not feel free or feels that all Americans do not operate on the same set of rules?
The idea of the ‘American Dream’ has been packaged and sold to those all over the world, but so often issues and entire groups of people get left out. This is part of the inspiration behind “American Also”, the two-part collection and campaign by Pyer Moss. Creative Director Kerby Jean-Raymond centered his FW18 and SS19 collections on cowboys to make a much greater point that some of the first cowboys in the US were, in fact, black and the omission of this truth is another case of erasure. Kerby expanded on these topics with the “American, Also” campaign for Pyer Moss, which includes eight short films shot in parts of the US in New York City, Chicago, Washington DC and Compton among other areas.
Kerby debuted the “American, Also” campaign at Spring Place to an intimate audience of 50 people to better explain each subject and have a small discussion about what it means to be American. Each film is stylized to create an intimate, home movie feeling, and Kerby’s team shot the interviews on old cameras that had sync issues, which resulted in interviews stopping abruptly because the cameras overheated or because of background noise like passing trains and loud cars.
The subjects of each film speak at length about their lives and careers, share wisdom and discuss pressing issues. Attorney and political rights activist Angela Rye, arguably the most popular subject in the series, appears in the short titled ‘Self-Efficacy’ and speaks about how she uses her platform to remind viewers about mass incarceration, gentrification and the dichotomy of marijuana commercialization in the US. Baltimore public school educator Valencia D. Clay and Mott Hall Bridges Academy Principal Dr. Nadia Lopez talk about mentorship, Compton Cowboys and Cowgirls of Color speak about being an inspiration in their respective communities and the importance of representation, and rapper Vic Mensa has a lengthy conversation with Chicago poet Tree about mental health and the dangers of gun violence.
The eight films altogether send a message of what it means to be a Black American in the United States. Each subject is asked, “Do you feel American?” and they each have their own idea of what it means to be American, and yet they are all unified in their independent missions to help make the country better for future Americans. The films also show that the quintessential American experience is varied and can be defined if we take the time to hear our fellow people share their stories.
“American, Also” speaks for the Pyer Moss label more than it speaks for the collections of the same name. Kerby used his platform to share the stories of eight exceptional individuals and show that Pyer Moss is about more than just clothing. The campaign feels like the redefining and repackaging of the American dream as well. The dream had always been about buying a large house with a white picket fence, but can every American achieve this dream? “American, Also” should inspire viewers to embrace their freedom, to live their lives how they see fit and to use their freedom to help others however they can, much like the eight extraordinary individuals in this campaign.
Pyer Moss Creative Director | Kerby Jean-Raymond / @kerbito
Art Director | Anthony Konigbagbe / @ant_konig
Director | Rubberband. / @_rubberband
Talent | Ameena Matthews, Angela Rye, Kisha “KB” Bowles, Nadia Lopez, Orlando “Chili” Mayorga, Paris “Tree” Brown, Randy Saavy, Valencia D. Clay & Vic Mensa
Stylist | Eric J. McNeal / @ericjmcneal
Lead Hair | Nigella Miller /@ stylist_nigella
Hair/MUA | Shideh Kafei / @shidehkafei
BTS Photographer | Amandla Baraka / @totheppl
Producer | Asha Efia / @ashaefia
Locations | Brownsville, Brooklyn – Compton, CA – Los Angeles, CA – Southside Chicago, IL – Upper Marlboro, MD