Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond on the label’s luxury transformation
Change is underway at the directional label. After buying back his brand in 2017, Kerby Jean-Raymond has plans to transform the image of his cultural-statement-cum-fashion-label - and it doesn’t include streetwear, the Haitian-American designer tells FashionNetwork.com, in a freewheeling discussion in Paris.
“Our priority is for Pyer Moss to be seen as a viable luxury menswear and womenswear brand and not a sportswear brand, not a streetwear brand, nothing that can catalogue us into a space that feels temporary. As Pyer Moss grows now we want it to be become more and more of a companion to brands like Dries and Margiela,” says Jean-Raymond, who was nominated in the emerging designer category for this year’s CFDA awards, of his ambitious new vision.
The first step insofar as the consumer is concerned will be to build the brand image by signing key stockists, Pyer Moss international sales director Megan Kimmance explains. “It’s really important to have the correct brand placement. So we want to make sure we’re… in the right stores that can elevate our brand – stores that we can grow with such as 10 Corso Como or Fwrd Man (a luxury e-commerce retailer).” Currently, the label is also currently stocked at Ssense, Hervia and Sugar, and the exec is pinpointing gradual future growth - but of quality stockists. “We had a lot of amazing feedback [for the last collection] and stores are going to start taking notice and see that Pyer Moss is on the map.”
With its latest offering including mannish, broad-shouldered outerwear silhouettes finished with contrast stitching, floor-skimming evening gowns in cornflower yellow and chiffon jumpsuits topped with burgundy Reebok bombers and logoised belts, the brand embraced contemporary sportswear-inspired luxury, but anchored the offering in premium tailoring.
“You’ve got the logos, and the entry level price point, it’s affordable for [the younger consumer],” says Kimmance. “And then you’ve got the evening dresses… So for the consumer, it’s a diverse option.”
The sports-hybrid space
The brand is not, however, abandoning sportswear entirely, as evidenced by its ongoing collaboration with Reebok - its first offering from the collaboration, the DMX Fusion Experiment, dropped in March 2018. But the products are complementary and will function as a means of elevating the Pyer Moss mainline, the designer says. “What Reebok has enabled me to do is take a lot of the sportswear elements that were in the Pyer Moss mainline and put it into Reebok and then elevate Pyer Moss… We want to have Reebok x Pyer Moss live in that streetwear sportswear hybrid space that we were kind of falling into by accident.”
The signing with Reebok came at the time when the designer broke off with the brand’s former production partners over disagreements over the future of the label. “They didn’t expect to grow a brand through design, they wanted essentially to repeat styles constantly - a very sales-driven motivation,” Jean-Raymond confides. But the disagreement pushed him towards striking a deal with Reebok that has allowed him total creative control. “I signed with Reebok over the other offers we were receiving because they were the only brand that was ballsy enough to say “we’ll give you complete creative control with no input,” the designer laughs. “And we’ll have mid-tier offerings with them as well, that are going to come out later on and will drop as capsules, those things will go out via foot lockers, mall stores, Reebok own channels.”
The launch of womenswear
Another turning point in evolution of the brand was the launch of womenswear in February 2018 – a milestone that the brand was bound to hit sooner or later, reflects Jean-Raymond, who cut his teeth in womenswear design at Marchesa.
“It was one of those things that was inevitable, like ‘at some point we have to do womenswear’ - something I’ve been dreading. I don’t know that I wanted to do it but I feel like I needed to. But I do think it has a lot of space to grow, way more than men’s.”
And why was he dreading it?
“It’s SO COMPLICATED. There’s so much body politics associated with womenswear, I love being an inclusive designer and it’s so much easier being inclusive with menswear because you just keep sizing up! But with womenswear we wanted to do it right - you really have to take into account big, wide tall, skinny, narrow, all these different things and it’s very difficult to create a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why I was dreading it, the expense that comes with it, the time it takes to do it right.”
A diverse approach
Such a commitment to getting diversity right is self-evident for a brand ethos based on inclusivity. The brand first stole the spotlight when it stormed the catwalks with a germane collection for Spring/Summer 2016, a diatribe against police brutality. The brand’s political statement has not lessened in intensity, even if it has since matured sartorially. Its fall collection was an assertion of belonging, making reference to historical techniques created by slaves and black artisans.
“For a lot of Americans who are not white, straight or whatever the case is, there’s so much political rhetoric, especially with our shitty-ass president, with us just not feeling like we’re included as Americans, they talk about Americans as if it’s this white Caucasian Christian male with a wife. They don’t talk about how it’s men and women of all different shades and colours so what I’m trying to do here is reinstill a sense of pride and of what it means to be American and proudly wearing the American flag, proudly wearing red, white and blue. Just owning it because it’s us too, you know.”
When it comes to inclusion in practise, Pyer Moss fares equally well, torpedoing, at least in its own catwalk show, the antarctic whiteness of the fashion industry. The designer selected a cast of all-black models for the last show, although, Jean-Raymond says, it wasn’t pre-meditated. “I’ll tell you what happened. After speaking to a few models and getting the sense of defeat from a lot of models that we were speaking to - “you’re the only show that will cast us, even consider us” - I started to feel like opening it up - I wanted Pyer Moss to feel like a safe space for people who don’t feel like they typically belong in fashion, people who definitely should be top models, be opening and closing Prada and all these places, and I feel like if I can provide the proving grounds, the starting space for them, that was my goal.”
As for the future of the brand, while Jean-Raymond is planning to explore luxury avenues in design and branding, the designer is certain it will remain true to its roots as a cultural statement, inspired by the stories of his friends and family, and ideas developed in discussion with his small design team. “Our hangtag is actually a postcard so you can send a postcard back to us - we want to stay true to that feeling of friendship,” he concludes.
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