Collaboration of the Year
Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond was never in it for the fame or the activism, but they — and Reebok — found him anyway.
Reebok by Pyer Moss
Site-crashing shoe releases and celebrities clad in fur coats — some might say that Reebok and Pyer Moss are tied up in a dreamy fashion courtship, but that was not the initial plan.
Since launching his New York-based luxury brand five years ago, founder and creative director Kerby Jean-Raymond has wholly transitioned the label from its men’s streetwear roots into a full-fledged multigender collection that he considers an “art project” more than anything. Reebok, ever-crafty with its own storied collaborations, recognized the designer’s talent and offered a partnership. But the brand had competition from another undisclosed company.
In the end, Reebok sealed the deal by offering Jean-Raymond something more than a quick check: complete creative control. “I get to keep my voice, and I get to make Reebok more like me, instead of me more like Reebok,” said the 32-year-old, who also recently nabbed the first-place prize from the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.
His culturally packed runway shows and campaigns spotlight various aspects of African-American life and of other underrepresented communities, a brazen approach that scared off some accounts in the brand’s early days.
But for Reebok, the union is “a perfect marriage,” according to Kelly Hibler, GM of its Classics division. “In China [last month], Allen Iverson was doing his [Answer 1] tour, and he said, ‘You allowed me to be me, and that made me great.’ I think [Kerby] is one of those examples — dealing with a designer who is fearless in their approach,” Hibler said.
The fanfare surrounding their collaboration has even widened its original intent. What started as a one-shoe contract for the DMX Fusion has spiraled into an entire “Experiment” sneaker series, including the Daytona (out now), plus the Mobius and a fourth style, both launching in early 2019. The apparel range was another added bonus and includes an assortment of throwback tracksuits, geometric one-pieces and floor-length furs that have been adopted by the likes of Janet Jackson, La La Anthony and Vic Mensa.
“I took the money for my design fee and made a whole collection. I got overzealous and created something bigger, and it exceeded expectations. I just bet on myself,” Jean-Raymond explained.
These victories are a 180-degree shift from his spring ’16 show, which proved divisive after he used a chilling documentary on police brutality against black people as the backdrop for his runway presentation. While recently the industry has finally begun to wake up to issues surrounding diversity and inclusion (and old accounts are now vying to get back in with Pyer Moss), the brand still faces some criticisms, namely concerning pricing.
“I thought putting my T-shirt at $125 was doing a service but didn’t realize that’s still an astronomical amount of money to some people,” said Jean-Raymond, who considers Pyer Moss a “luxury bargain.”
“But there’s no way for me to retail my product for less because we’re not making our stuff in sweatshops; we’re doing fair labor, and everybody’s being paid a decent wage. These revolutionary ideas come at a cost.”
Joining forces with Reebok has helped propel the label (and its so-called radical ideas) to a wider audience. The most premium product in the collab collection has top-tier distribution at stores such as Farfetch and Ssense, while midtier items are stocked at Foot Locker and other elevated mall shops.
But no matter the channel, the first two Reebok by Pyer Moss sneakers sold out in under five minutes, leading the partners to plot grander plans. “It’s a lot bigger than any of us thought, so we just have to refocus,” said Jean-Raymond.
The companies are in the process of drawing up a new contract to continue the partnership, which was originally set to end in June.
“The one thing we realize is how incredibly broad Kerby’s reach is with both the message and product, which is why we are so excited to expand,” said Hibler.
“I GOT OVERZEALOUSAND CREATED SOMETHING BIGGER. ... I JUST BET ON MYSELF.” — Kerby Jean-Raymond
Reebok DMX Daytona Experiment 2 by Pyer Moss