Kerby Jean-Raymond hates fashion shows. “To pull someone out of their day and bring them to the middle of nowhere to wait for hours just to see people walking back and forth is really selfish,” he tells Alexa. The 31-year-old breakout designer has grander ambitions for his label, Pyer Moss.
The Brooklyn-born Jean-Raymond founded Pyer Moss in 2013, after freelancing for Marc Jacobs, Theory and Kenneth Cole and launching a political T-shirt line when he was only 15 (which he later sold to Urban Outfitters). Pyer Moss, which began as a men’s line and evolved into unisex and women’s offerings, has since drawn celeb fans like Rihanna and Issa Rae, along with football star and activist Colin Kaepernick, who wore a custom T-shirt from Jean-Raymond (listing the names of unarmed victims killed by police) on the cover of GQ.
The designer’s original aim for the label — cool clothes for cool guys — steered clear of the political. “I saw a lot of my black contemporaries being held back by their race, so I didn’t even want that to be a factor for me,” Jean-Raymond reflects. But soon, “I felt like a traitor,” he says. “I wasn’t being myself.”
So in 2015, he began making a documentary about police brutality and the black community, featuring interviews with the family of Michael Brown, as well as footage from the deaths of Eric Garner and Walter Scott. The 15-minute film debuted at Pyer Moss’ spring 2016 runway show. Adding to the theatrical experience, graffiti artist Gregory Siff tagged catwalk pieces with words like “love” and “breathe” during the presentation. Jean-Raymond says that overnight, he went “from a fashion nobody to infamous.”
He has continued to experiment with the runway format, often incorporating collaborators, like singer Erykah Badu and Chicago rap star Vic Mensa, or laying bare intimate details, like his complicated relationship with his Haitian-immigrant father.
For Pyer Moss’ fall collection — “American, Also” — a gospel choir performed a medley of anthems, including Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” Red, white and blue clothes were inspired by African American-focused Americana, while a new collaboration with Reebok was also unveiled. Rather than trendy Western blouses, Jean-Raymond revealed patchwork leather jackets and ultra-wide-leg trousers that reference black cowboys from the 19th century.
“The runway is such a short period of time,” he says. “If I have your attention for 15 minutes, then I’m going to use it. I’m going to pack as much of my personal experience and thoughts and feelings into it as possible.”
Celeb fans of the brand include Issa Rae (pictured), Tiffany Haddish and Janet Jackson.