Last night, writer, actor, and producer Issa Rae made history as the first person of color to ever host the CFDA Awards. The Insecure star was also the first woman to emcee fashion’s Oscars since 2009. Suffice it to say, a lot was riding on this moment, from what she’d say during her opening monologue (nailed that Kanye joke) to what she’d wear.
“Issa and I had a few conversations about the evening, and what she made clear was that she wanted to look amazing and true to her,” her stylist Jason Rembert told me via email.
Representation was important to the duo, which is why Rae wore exclusively black designers from head-to-toe through out the evening.
The first look? A show-stopping look from Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss. “Jason and I have been friends since college, we have a very loose and interesting rapport,” said Jean-Raymond. “When he asked me to do this, all he said was “Diana Ross in Mahogany.” We presented some over-the-top sketches and some subdued ones. In the end she chose something flashy but at the same time comfortable enough for her to wear all night.” With the title of a Boris Gardiner song “Every N—- Is a Star” stitched on the belt Rae, Moss, and Jean-Raymond also sent the fashion industry a bit of a message. “It was a subtle reminder that we can do anything and go anywhere. We are not just tragic figures.”
Though none of the black designers who were nominated for a CFDA Award won, “it’s important to know that being there was already a huge achievement,” says Jean Raymond. After the awards wrapped, I caught up with Rembert at New York’s Dumbo House to learn more about Rae’s looks.
Kerby’s told me a bit of how this red carpet looks came together, but I’d love to hear from you.
We fit her on Friday, Kerby altered it on Saturday, and then Kirby sent me final images. I responded, “Beautiful.” And Kirby responded, “Every n—- is a star.”
That’s what he wrote back in the email.
Yeah, he wrote that back. Then we added a belt to the look. And Kerby said he wanted to embroider something. Nate Hinton, from his PR team, told me what he wanted to embroider and I was like it’s genius. When I went to the fitting today I showed Issa the belt, which is actually reversible. I showed her both sides. And she was like, “That’s the one.”
What does it mean for you guys to be in this moment together right now?
I think it is growth. I’m excited to just see my brother grow. Like to see where Kerby is today and see how he continues to grow. I remember Kerby’s first show. It was in the basement of this club or hotel. And it was on like crates. And just to see where he’s at today is amazing.
Why did you choose all black designers for this evening?
When we first spoke about CFDA she wanted to do something that was authentic and something that was honest to her. Issa was the underdog. She has been the underdog and she continues to prevail and make a way for so many other people. I think that we know we can help people who just don’t have—
You can help them just by simply having her walk on a stage in their look.
Exactly. Simply by walking on a stage and wearing it. We reached out to some amazing black designers who embraced the idea and really wanted to be a part of it. We just really appreciate them.
So, she wore Pyer Moss on the red carpet and just walked by in Victor Glemaud. Who else did she wear?
The green look was Sergio Hudson. The black gown was custom Jason Rembert.
And the last look was custom Shanel. She is a young designer who just showed at Parsons.
And then the last look for the after party was Victor Glemaud. Even all the jewelry designers she wore were black. Mateo was the carpet, along with Sneely Jewelry. And then she also wore JLANI Jewels who’s a black designer based in Florida.
Wow, you guys made a concerted effort.
I mean, I think it’s needed. Issa has an amazing platform and had the opportunity to highlight these young talents. It’s amazing and I’m very appreciative of it.