Kerby Jean-Raymond, Fashion Designer
Before this assignment, I never actually thought about who inspired me. There have always been artist and their work that I found inspiring or beautiful, but I didn’t delve into the inspiration I received from them. I have long been a fan of Kerby Jean-Raymond work – from the intricate details of his designs to the colors he brilliantly pairs together to the innovative way he styles his pieces on people – but he is so much more than an American fashion designer. I’m not only inspired by his artistry, but also by the work he does outside of the fashion industry. He is not someone who only talks about supporting “his people” but someone who puts action behind his words. He is a huge advocate for social reform and creating spaces for people of color. He is consistently making strides in fashion, as well in the black community. It is his creative brilliance and genuineness that truly inspires me.
Kerby Jean-Raymond was born and raised in New York City. He began his start in the fashion industry at the age of fourteen when he interned at Kay Unger while attending the High School of Fashion Industries. He later freelanced for several houses such as Marc Jacobs, Theory, Badgley Mischka and Kenneth Cole, where he became more involved in design. In 2013, Kerby created the brand Pyer Moss, named after his late mother, Vania Moss Pierre which featured menswear. In 2016, Kerby sent shockwaves through the fashion industry with his Spring/Summer collection. The show featured a video and designs that shed an undeniable light on police brutality and systemic racism. The anticipation and aftermath of the show had some unfortunate consequences, and though Kerby did not want to out his brand at risk he also knew he could not be silent when it came to these issues.
“If we spark one mind, one change in the room, somebody who just gets it and is going to out and be kind to somebody or just give somebody an opportunity regardless of the color of their skin… that’s essentially what we are trying to achieve with this.”
Interview by Chantal Fernandez, Fashionista.com
Since then, Kerby’s mission was the have Pyer Moss use its voice and platform to “challenge the social narrative and evoke dialogue” with the collections always aiming to intertwine the art of storytelling with activism. He launched the program, Exist to Resist, that spotlights different organizations that are working tirelessly for social justice, donating profits made from sold custom merchandise. At the 2019 Met Gala, Kerby generated industry chatter again with his custom pieces for himself and screenwriter and producer, Lena Waithe.
The most interesting and innovative detail about these custom suits is that the vertical black stripes are lyrics from Black Hip-Hop artists: Nipsey Hussle, 2pac, Jay-Z, Nas, Drake, Meek Mill, J Cole, and Kendrick Lamar.
In 2018, Pyer Moss collaborated with long-time activewear brand Reebok, which won the Collaboration of the Year at the Footwear News Achievement Awards later that year; and in 2020, Kerby was named Reebok’s global creative director. Other impressive accolades of the designer include Forbes’ 30 Under 30, FGI’s award for Rising Star in the menswear category, WWD’s Emerging Designer of the Year, and the CFDA Award for American Menswear Designer of the Year.
Though Pyer Moss has always gone against the fashion industry norm, while telling Black stories, the most thought provoking and visionary experience was the Fall 2021couture collection. The show, titled “WAT U IZ”, featured invention and innovations by Black people such as the cellphone and traffic light, as well as homage to icons such as Madam C.J. Walker, the first self-made millionaire in America; the show’s location, Villa Lewaro, is a part of her estate. Much like many of his collections, the designs were a celebration of Black culture and a mean to change the dialogue around its people.
Kerby Jean-Raymond personifies authenticity, innovation, and inspiration. He entered the industry with his mind set on who he wanted to be as a person and a designer and did not waiver under any circumstances. He had created many spaces and opportunities for Black voices. When I see his work, it makes me proud to be a young Black creative in this world. It pushes me to think outside of the box and break beyond the boundaries that are set in place to hold me back. I genuinely believe he is a rare talent and the potential he harbors, has yet to reach its peak. While I excitedly anticipate what he chooses to do next, I will continue to revel in his raw and imaginative vision and always be inspired.