Kerby Jean-Raymond received the 2018 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and, honestly, it’s well deserved.
It's been quite the year for #BlackinFashion with 8 iconic women of color gracing the covers of prestigious fashion magazines in September; Tyler Mitchell being the first black photographer to shoot a cover for Vogue; Lindsay Peoples Wagner, former editor at The Cut, being offered the role as Editor in Chief over at teenVogue after her groundbreaking article Everywhere and Nowhere; and Afro-Dominican model Licett Morillo being the first Black model to close a show for Prada (mind you, it was her first show). There has been some major progression within the world of Black Fashion; ‘fashion inclusion’ advocates are surely doing cartwheels.
The Black magic continues as the fashion powerhouse of activism, Pyer Moss, reigns supreme and the brand’s Creative Director, Kerby (Kerbito) Jean-Raymond, receives his accolades for it. This week, the 15th Anniversary of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Ceremony took place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Kerbito, along with 9 other finalists, actively participated in a number of design challenges in order to be considered as the top honoree. For 2018, Kerbito was announced as the top honoree of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund; a cash prize of $400,000. Runner ups received a cash prize of $150,000 each.
Kerbito being the top honoree means much more than a Black man in the fashion world being recognized. Not only is Kerbito a Black man with 18 years of design experience but with his fashion label Pyer Moss (launched in 2013), he has made it a prominent goal to be continuously socially responsible by addressing socio-political issues in American society through his designs, campaigns and runway installments. His advocacy for fighting against social injustice, police brutality, and mental illness is what makes him an honorable man, designer and artist. For five years, this man has incorporated political messages through his work and developed moving concepts through his runway shows for Pyer Moss despite the backlash he once had to combat in an open letter – with orchestras playing and gospel choirs singing Negro spirituals. Also, in his most recent campaign for his collaborative Fall 18 collection with Reebok “American, Also,’ he takes on the concept of challenging the traditional narratives of the original American Cowboy by connoting the phrase into a more impactful one with illustrations that aim to promote inclusivity among minorities.
While the masses embraced Kerbito’s efforts to incorporate social narratives in his work – crowning him as the ‘new prince of fashion,’ there were some speculators of the young Black designer and whether his efforts were genuine. With the release of his infamous See Now, Buy Now ‘911’ tee, the majority not familiar with his work were immediately skeptical due to the pricing of the shirt. There were multiple inquiries on the price point; the social media account was hit with questions like “Why so much?” “Where are the proceeds going?” and “Is this really for the culture?” Of course, with the branding behind Pyer Moss being so aligned with Kerbito’s genuine nature, the account had a comeback for every question and every concern. How baffling it is that we finally receive a Fashion icon who aims to carry his people with him to the top and our, as a Black community, immediate reaction is the integrity of his intentions? So many European based designers have utilized the oppressive history of Black people and the influence of our cultural practices as marketing ploys to tap into the ‘Black dollar’ yet designers of this stature never seem to get such scrutiny. Kerbito has steadily had to combat the negative perceptions of his messages and he has withstand it all. For that, you have to applaud.
As a Black woman working actively within the fashion world, it has been such a delight to watch his brand progress and for him to finally be acknowledged for his efforts; he’s like our Black Fashion superhero. Congratulation, Kerbito! We’re rooting for you.