“How can such an influential and ubiquitous medium not be used to positively impact the world?” That is the question that lingers in the mind of Kerby Jean-Raymond. It’s what got him interested in fashion and led to his first apprenticeship at 14 — and it’s what led him to launch Pyer Moss in 2013.
“I truly do not feel the world needs more luxury goods,” he said in an interview with Mic. “Fashion is an expression, if we were wearing clothes for necessity we would all be fine dressed in basic Dockers and a Wrangler polo.”
Most recently, Jean-Raymond launched the brand’s FW18 campaign titled “American, Also,” what Jean-Raymond sees as a three-years-in-the-making sequel to the short film first shown at New York Fashion Week. It focuses on telling the stories of underrepresented Americans and their feelings around patriotism and activism, specifically focusing on black cowboys from the 19th century.
“It shows ordinary people doing extraordinary things to shift the negative narrative told frequently about black and brown people,” he said. “It also shows the work they are doing to preserve their communities. It is important now more than ever because of the nature of today’s politics and policies are very divisive. People of color are being treated like second-class citizens — if we talk about the contributions of POC, past and present, It will lend way to a realm of possibility in all of us to make a change now.”
Though some outlets continue to paint Jean-Raymond as emerging — he’s still getting introductory profiles written about him as recently as September — Jean-Raymond’s been here, first making waves in 2014 with his “They Have Names” T-shirt, which featured the names of 13 unarmed black men killed by police violence at the time.
The shirts were a massive success; in 2017, Colin Kaepernick wore a re-release, “Even More Names,” for his GQ Citizen of the Year spread. Jean-Raymond was initially hesitant to create work that would put him in a box.
“You’re not just a designer at that point, you become a ‘black designer,’” he told Mic in 2015, reflecting on the T-shirt’s initial release. “It becomes all about your race and less about your work, so I kind of wanted to stay away from it.”
A change of heart shortly thereafter led to him designing another T-shirt, this one for Usher, in which the words “July Fourth” were crossed out and instead read “Juneteenth.” And then a few months later came his spring/summer 2016 runway show, which focused on police brutality and featured a mix of video, clothing and live graffiti art.
Like his SS16 runway, the “American, Also” campaign offers print images and features a nine-part film portion that combines eight short films and one grander campaign film all shot on 16-millimeter film by New York-based directing duo Rubberband.
Of the short films, episodes one and two were filmed in Brownsville in Brooklyn, New York, and features Baltimore Public Schools educator Valencia D. Clay and Mott Hall Bridges Academy principal Nadia Lopez. Episode three was filmed in Compton, California, and features the leader of the Compton Cowboys, Randy Savvy. Episode four was shot in Los Angeles and features attorney and political advocate Angela Rye.
Episode five was filmed on the South Side of Chicago and features Orlando “Chili” Mayorga of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation Community Center. Episode six was filmed in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and features Kisha “KB” Bowles, a rodeo rider with Cowgirls of Color. Episodes seven and eight were filmed on the South Side of Chicago and feature Ameena Matthews, a violence reconciliation activist and imam of Al Haqqani Mosque, and Paris “Tree” Brown (seen above) and Vic Mensa, both of whom work with student-led advocacy group Good Kids Mad City.
Tree was a victim of gun violence and was first introduced to Jean-Raymond via Mensa. “He has the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on a person,” Jean-Raymond described. “He is really talented and motivated to make a difference with the youth around him. In his own words, Tree was not living the most positive life before the shooting that left him paralyzed from the waist down. After an adjustment period, which was almost derailed by a suicide attempt and depression, he shifted his focus to helping his own community. His story is fascinating.”
Below, see the entirety of Pyer Moss’ FW18 campaign.
You can view the campaign video, as well as eight of the episodes, here.