While most 13-year-olds are busy shopping in malls for the latest clothing trends, Kerby Jean-Raymond was different. He wanted his own clothing brand. He began on a small scale—first working at a sneaker store after-school in Brooklyn, to eventually owning several clothing lines while in school (he attended Hofstra University and earned a degree in business law and entrepreneurship), and later launching a fully-backed denim company. Despite his efforts, those businesses weren’t successful, but one day it clicked for him and things started to fall into place.
He eventually created Pyer Moss, a men’s ready-to-wear line, and hasn’t looked back. “Pyer Moss was a combination of everything I learned, it got recognition way sooner than I ever expected which I’m grateful for,” Jean-Raymond tells ESSENCE. “I started drawing up the collections in early 2012, made my first samples in December of 2012 and then by January 2013 we were viral.”
Jean-Raymond finds inspiration for his designs everywhere, but one that remains constant throughout all of the seasons is his experience as a Black man growing up in East Flatbush and his Haitian heritage. Just ask him his favorite trend of the moment and he’ll quickly say scenes from 1990s New York. “If you take a close look at the past few seasons, New York nostalgia is dominating,” he says proudly.
New York aside, Pyer Moss (named after Kerby’s late mother, Vania Moss Pierre) is best known for activism and for offering collections filtered through a political lens. Most recently Jean-Raymond designed T-shirts that listed the names of victims of police brutality and created a collection that speaks to economic inequality. “We need to think forward and keep making America greater,” he told W Magazine last fall. “Not that old America, again.”
Today he makes business decisions with the intent of helping other minority artists who may not fit the mold of a fashion designer—even if that means not aligning with too many celebrities, or the using the term ‘street wear’ because his line is much more than that.
But through it all, one thing is for sure—he’s not giving up and will continue to strive to be successful. “I’ve never said I made it; I probably won’t until I’m close to dead,” he says. “To others, I may be successful but I’ve only gotten about 20% of the life that I actually want and maybe made 1% of the impact on the world that I want to make. I don’t even keep any trophies or magazine that I’m in around the house. My friend Gregory Siff always says ‘the trophy is the death of the hustle.’”