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Business of HYPE: Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss

Business of HYPE is a weekly series brought to you by HYPEBEAST Radio and hosted by jeffstaple. It’s a show about creatives, brand-builders, entrepreneurs and the realities behind the dreams they’ve built. This week, Jeff sits down with Kerby Jean-Raymond, creator of Pyer Moss and Artistic Director of Reebok Studies.

In recent years, Pyer Moss has become a rather unstoppable force in fashion. Your favorite musician, actor or director could be seen wearing it; the brand won the CFDA Fashion Fund Prize; and its founder was listed on Forbes‘ 30 under 30. Most importantly, the brand has been celebrated for its strong political stances and homage to black culture. However, what is a successful brand now, took Kerby years to build, even almost at risk of losing it all. 

The Flatbush native attended Fashion Industries High School for a program in fashion design & pattern making where he was able to freelance for Kay Unger and Marchesa. He went on to double major in entrepreneurship and business law with a minor in African studies at Hofstra University—where his interest in politics took form. Despite a number of fashion internships at Kenneth Cole, Theory, Marc Jacobs and Mishka, the designer was left without a full-time job and instead landed at a local AT&T.

“I don’t think people understand how hard it is to get a job. Getting a job fresh out of college when you’re black, young, with limited experience is difficult. A lot of kids end up going back to school because it’s easier to put your loans in forbearance. I had to just get to it. I needed a place to live, and I needed to survive.”

After getting fired from AT&T, Kerby decided to return to his passion and started his clothing line GAUD. A number of mishaps and chaotic investor deals later, he renamed the line to Pyer Moss, in homage of his late mother. While the brand did gain momentum, Kerby was entangled in more troubling investment deals and it was only until late 2017, the designer was free of past grievances.

In the past two years, Kerby has developed an impressive body of work with his three recent collections. He stresses that the Pyer Moss today came about by him learning to “stop following the formula.” Success didn’t come by finessing celebrities or trendy, viral moments, but more so by harnessing the energy of “politics, societal conventions and music” — all of which were on display during his most recent show at King’s Theatre. 

“I just cannot do it. I’m free of the fashion industry for sure, but what I’m never gonna set myself free of is being responsible for other people. I feel completely responsible for all the lives that work with us. That’s the legacy we’re gonna leave behind; we’re not gate keepers, we’re gate openers.”

This episode features references to the following:

3:56 – The High School of Fashion Industries
5:30 – Tinker Hatfield
7:42 – Kay Unger
8:17 – Ragga Muffin
12:51 – Family background
21:21 – Hofstra University
22:50 – Marchesa
23:04 – Kenneth ColeTheoryMarc Jacobs
25:16 – Working at Sprint and AT&T
36:26 – Jim Cramer
37:36 – Starting his brand, Gaud
39:48 – Getting investors
46:23 – Rihanna
46:36 – Turning Gaud into Pyer Moss
52:15 – Barneys
56:22 – Getting investors
59:24 – Usher
60:49 – Forbes 30 Under 30
62:02 – Negotiation deals
64:04 – Damion Presson of Reebok
73:15 – Reebok deal
73:49 – Pyer Moss, Collection I
77:17 – Pyer Moss, Collection III
77:24 – Christopher John Rogers
80:03 – King’s Theatre
83:39 – Reflections