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Irvington News

Storm Postpones Livestream Fashion Event from Historic Villa Lewaro

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July 8, 2021

By Barrett Seaman—

Had only the low rumblings been the sound of a drum roll signaling the start of the event. But no, they were the sound of approaching thunder cells coming up and across the Hudson. Almost exactly at 2 p.m. when the fashion show at Irvington’s Villa Lewaro featuring the work of rising star Kerby Jean-Raymond, who designs under the label Pyer Moss, was scheduled to begin, the skies opened up over the Villa and the pristine white folding chairs set up on the front lawn on either side of a sleek blue catwalk. At times, the intensity of the rain was too much even for the white umbrellas handed out to the hundreds of guests.

Eventually, the event was called off and re-scheduled for Saturday, July 10. “The energy ain’t it,” read an Instagram purportedly from the designer himself. “And we will make a portion of the audience open to the public,” the message went on. “Will make the ticket link tomorrow morning ’til seats are gone.”

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One of several attempts to dry off the catwalk

How many of the invited guests, many of whom were elegantly attired, will return Saturday was not clear. Weather permitting, however, the invitation to Irvington residents may sit well for many who were on the outside Thursday looking in.

This was a big moment for Jean-Raymond, the first Black-American designer to show at Paris Couture Fashion Week. The livestream event was the second in a series of post-pandemic remote fashion shows, following a dramatic nighttime Dior collection display at the 2,000-year-old Athens Panathenaic stadium in Greece last month. It was said that this was to be the closing act of Fashion Week in Paris. How the rescheduling will accomplish that two days later was not clear.

A model prepares but never makes it to the catwalk

Villa Lewaro was chosen because Madame C.J. Walker, who built the 20,000 sq. ft. mansion, was a great supporter of the Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th Century. The Villa’s current owner, Richelieu Dennis of Los Angeles, also owns the parent company of Essence Magazine, which sponsored the Irvington event. According to Danielle Wright, writing in Essence, Jean-Raymond’s honors include being invited to be a guest member of the official Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. “As such,” she wrote earlier this week, “he’ll be required to assemble a collection of at least 25 authentic looks and will employ a studio with 20 full-time staff members.”

“It was great to see so many people of color in Irvington,” said the Village’s Mayor, Brian Smith, who was a guest. Among others was Richelieu Dennis, as well as Congressman Mondaire Jones, who had never met Dennis before the event. So all was not lost, and if Hurricane Elsa stays out in the Atlantic, the white chairs, the blue catwalk, the string quartet—and most of all, Madame Walker’s Villa will see the light of day on Saturday.

Designer Kerby Jean-Raymond on the day before the Villa Lewaro show. Photo by Steve Halliwell


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