Pyer Moss founder, Kerby Jean-Raymond has paid the price for making the blackest statement that a black designer could make during a New York Fashion Week runway show. He unapologetically expressed his frustrations as a black man in America – an unheard of concept in the industry of high fashion. His shows include short films and sometimes voice tress gospel choirs dressed in all-white providing the soulful soundtrack. He once produced a show in Weeksville Brooklyn, away from the glamour of Manhattan, inside a neighborhood that became one of America’s first free black communities, founded in 1838 by a free black man, James Weeks. Renounced artist Derrick Adams creates profound prints for the fall collection with beautiful family portraits over silk pajamas and cocktail dresses. Known for his thought-provoking, socially conscious way of producing a runway has made him a sought after event during fashion season.
The East Flatbush Brooklyn-bred, Haitian American Jean-Raymond burst onto the spotlight with his signature line Pyer Moss in 2013. Kerby Jean-Raymond is creating his own genre with his conscience apparel and after winning the coveted CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award, Jean-Raymond took a year off and invested the prized $400,000 back into Pyer Moss and this year utilizing and unorthodox ‘see-now-buy-now’ model in presenting his 2020 collection.
“We don’t necessarily do anything that would fit the standard mode of a fashion company in America,” expressed Jean-Raymond. “This line has always been a representation of me or else who needs it? You can get clothes anywhere. This is a people’s project. I’ve called this an art project. But it’s more of a community gathering. What I encourage my team to do is include their stories in their designs. What I realize is that young black people of color have way more in common then we don’t. I’m still the first for all of people. The first to see success in this industry.”
What Kerby is working on now.
Potential sneaker designer turned clothing craftsmen to documentarian, sculptor to cultural revolutionary, Kerby Jean-Raymond is a man that’s unapologetically down for the black nation but what he’s not down with is putting him and his brand in a box. This year, we expect to see a softer, less militate side of the designer. “Fast forward, after making the first doc, we went to the southside of Chicago, we went to Compton, we went to Baltimore and we spoke to local activists who are doing the groundwork of laying the foundation for the youth in their own communities because we wanted to show this industry that black people are just people that you advertise to,” says Jean-Raymond. “These are humans with emotions. Everything that we’re doing now is essentially working on reversing that ratio of African Americans and their contributions to society but we’re also working on eliminating those negative stereotypes. For me to have gotten to this point, it took a lot of soul searching and I took a lot of risk on that very first show. I lost all of my accounts, my partners became more and more frustrated and start doing all kind of weird sh## to increasingly pull money out. I started to get death threats, I was a fu##ing target. The one thing that I never wanted was the fame.”
Pyer Moss has infamously carved a niche in the fashion business where there was no place for profound black voices to be heard. And doing so nearly cost him the career he so longingly deserved. After effectively closing his partnership, engaging in a litany of lawsuits while hitting a wall of depression, Jean-Raymond re-invented himself as the creator of his own division at Reebok where he holds the title of Art Director. This lucrative deal allowed Jean-Raymond to again, take the lead on his vision, giving a new voice to the African American market of consumers. “Me going through what I went through is so that someone else can do this Sh## with impunity later,” says Jean-Raymond. “So many black designers out here are scared to death to be black designers. The next one that comes up after me, come up after Telfar (Clemens), that comes up after Jerry Lorenzo will never have to apologize for their color ever again.”
This spring, Pyer Moss teamed with Director X on a short film called Seven Mothers, centered around Jean-Raymond losing his own mother at the tender age of 7. The film features the women who stepped in to help raise him portrayed by models Ebonee Davis and Riley Montana as his mothers. Tom Ford, the new CFDA’s Chairman, recently appointed Jean-Raymond to its board of directors and students at Pratt University awarded him their 2019 Visionary Award which squarely puts Jean-Raymond is a leadership position going into 2020.
Pyer Moss’ spiritual Spring/Summer 2019 collection was named one of the best collections of the season by Vogue, and soon after Jean-Raymond won the CFDA Fashion Fund prize of $400,000 to invest in his business. He didn’t display a collection last NYFW but is back this season to much anticipation.
Photo Credit: Pyer Moss
Check out the Fall 2019 Style Issue of The Quintessential Gentleman.
Written by Darralynn Hutson