Millions around the world are preparing to watch a historic inauguration, in which the most divisive president in US history, Donald Trump, is replaced with President-elect Joe Biden and the first-ever woman Vice President Kamala Harris. On the eve of Inauguration Day, Biden and Harris, joined by their partners, Dr Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff, gathered on the National Mall in Washington DC for a Covid Memorial, honouring and remembering the more than 400,000 American lives lost to the pandemic so far.
The devastating milestone was passed earlier that day with the release of the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University showing that about 401,128 people have now been killed by the virus in the country amid more than 24m cases. Both numbers are by far the highest in the world.
Wearing masks and standing socially distanced, the couples looked out to 400 lights along the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, as Americans were asked to light candles in their windows and to ring bells for a “national moment of remembrance”.
“To heal we must remember. It’s hard sometimes to remember,” Biden said in an address, “but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation… Let us shine the lights in the darkness… and remember all whom we lost.” His words were followed by a moment of silence.
Not only did the memorial showcase how vastly different Biden and Harris are going to choose to lead the country, but so too did Harris and Dr Biden’s outfits.
Harris wore a camel coat by New York-based brand Pyer Moss, helmed by Kerby Jean-Raymond, a Black designer who is known for blending fashion with activism, using his designs and the voice of his brand to challenge social narratives and help Black America.
Recently, Jean-Raymond has addressed the erasure of African American narratives in popular culture via a three-part series of collections that he called “American, Also,” for which he also created a film discussing the Black experience. Pyer Moss’ latest trainer drop, ‘Experiment 4’, benefits the Innocence Project, an organisation working to reverse wrongful convictions and Jean-Raymond has been vocal about systemic racism in the fashion industry and America’s need to defund the police.
The 33-year-old designer has also been a prominent figure in helping the fight against COVID. In September 2020, Jean-Raymond spent $10,000 gathering PPE for hospital workers, turned Pyer Moss’ office into a donation centre, and created a $100,000 fund to help small, community-focused creative businesses that are minority – or women-owned – survive.
Meanwhile, Dr Biden opted to wear a purple wrap coat and panelled dress by New York-based designer Jonathan Cohen, who champions sustainability and responsible design and often uses the runway to pay tribute to his Mexican-American roots and Jewish heritage. Both the coat and mask that Dr Biden wore were made sustainably from fabric scraps from Cohen’s studio.
Of course, the colour purple is no coincidence, either. Purple is not only one of the Suffragettes’ colours, but it’s also the colour that is created when red and blue are mixed together: a show of uniting America again, after an incredibly tumultuous time.
Later today, Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States with performances from Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez.