Forty-eight hours after the Pyer Moss show was rained off by Tropical Storm Elsa, Kerby Jean-Raymond became the first black designer to show at Paris couture week.
The presentation, titled, Wat U Iz, took place at Villa Lewaro, an early 20th-century mansion in Irvington, N.Y., built by the daughter of enslaved parents who became a hair-care magnate. It was a symbolic venue for the collection, in which Jean-Raymond aimed “to highlight inventions by Black people and show them in a nontraditional way.”
Following a speech by former Black Panther chairwoman Elaine Brown, and 22Gz’s rendition of “Fallen Blixkys,” models descended the catwalk, in couture pieces that paid homage to the ingenuity of Black creators in American history.
Historically, the achievements of Black inventors have been erased due to the racist roots of the patent system stem when slaveowners could receive patent ownerships on behalf of the enslaved person who actually made the invention.
Jean-Raymond’s show shone a light on some of the most important of those inventions, many of which we use today. Scroll down for some of our favorites.
Garrett Morgan, the son of formerly enslaved parents, invented the traffic light in 1923. Morgan is also credited with inventing the gas mask which he put to the test following a pipeline explosion that left construction workers trapped. He saved several workers’ lives and his own, thanks to his invention.
The Super Soaker
A leak in a heat pump gave rocket scientist Lonnie Johnson the idea for the Super Soaker. Lonnie Johnson is an engineer and inventor who holds more than 120 patents. According to the Smithsonian, Johnson was at home in 1982 working on an idea for an improved heat pump – a device for heating and cooling that mechanically transfers heat to another source – when his creation sprang a leak. A burst of water shot across the room and Johnson immediately thought, “That would make a great squirt gun.”
George Washington Carver created more than 300 products from the peanut plant. He didn’t technically invent peanut butter, but his many he brought to the peanut industry as it was still expanding, particularly at a time when the contributions of Black Americans were often overlooked.
The Folding Chair
On July 7, 1911, an African-American man named Nathaniel Alexander of Lynchburg, Virginia patented a folding chair. According to his patent, Nathaniel Alexander designed his chair to be used in schools, churches, and other auditoriums.
Augustus Jackson invented an improved method of manufacturing ice cream. While he didn’t technically invent ice cream, he is considered by many to be the modern-day “Father of Ice Cream.”
The Cell Phone
the first digital cell phone was invented by Jesse Eugene Russell. While Russell was working as an engineer at AT&T-Bell Laboratories in 1988, Russell created the concept for the wireless digital phone and communication. At the time, mobile devices were mainly used in vehicles, so Russell designed a cell phone that could transmit signals between handsets and cell phone towers.
Thermal Hair Curlers
Solomon Harper invented the first thermal hair curlers in 1930. The hair curler was thermostatic, therefore it relied on electricity to provide the heat needed to curl hair. He struggled to get recognition and financial pay for his inventions.
Thomas W. Stewart revolutionized cleaning when he patented a new type of mop (U.S. patent #499,402) on June 11, 1893. Thanks to his clamping device, floor cleaning became easier and faster.
Christopher Latham Sholes (February 14, 1819 – February 17, 1890) was an American inventor who invented the QWERTY keyboard, and, along with Samuel W. Soule, Carlos Glidden, and John Pratt, has been contended to be one of the inventors of the first typewriter in the United States.
Other designs referenced chess, which is said to trace its origins to Africa, as well as the curtain rod, the gas burner, the longer-lasting filament for the electric light bulb, the bicycle frame, the portable airconditioning unit, the gas mask, mobile refrigeration, the fire escape, the camping tent, the modern-day hairbrush,the lock, the hot comb, the single use bottle cap, and the horse shoe.