On the eve of inauguration, president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris, both accompanied by their spouses, Dr. Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff, gathered on the National Mall in Washington DC to pay respect to over 400,000 American lives lost to COVID-19. The striking images of the new American leaders, with the backdrop of a violently beautiful sunset quickly spread, becoming a symbol of better days to come. Something else that caught the world's attention however, was the unexpected sartorial choices of the Harris and Biden. For the occasion, both chose to wear young independent American designers. It follows Michelle Obama's championing of emerging, diverse designers, and sets the tone for the next four years.
Dr Jill Biden wore a purple ensemble by Jonathan Cohen, a Parsons’ graduate and pioneer of sustainable fashion, working with left-over fabrics. Her wrap-coat and panelled dress – from Cohen's upcoming A/W collection – were accessorised with matching leather gloves, a velvet clutch and a mask made from upcycled fabrics from a previous collections. If we're to read into the colour choice, purple is not only a harmonious mix of blue and red, but also, the colour of Harris' campaign and one that nods to her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters from Howard University, and Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to run for president back in the 1972.
Vice president-elect Harris opted for a classic camel coat by Pyer Moss, a politically conscious New York City-based label by Kerby Jean-Raymond. The winner of the CFDA Fashion Fund Prize in 2018, the American-Haitian designer prefers to use his runway not just to show beautifully-made clothes, but also to address important social issues like police violence, racism in the fashion industry, or social injustice. In his recent series of collections entitled “American, Also”, he talked about the exclusion and erasure of African American narratives in American pop culture. Last year he turned the Pyer Moss’ HQ into a donation centre to collect PPE for hospital workers and donated $50000 to help minority-owned businesses affected by the pandemic.