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.

Footwear News - - CONTENTS - By NIA GROCE

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

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