The question of whether or not diversity in fashion is something others see as a trend lingers at the back of many minds—particularly if you’re a part of the marginalized groups that have been historically excluded from the fashion industry’s very white narrative. There’s major suspicion tied to diversity and inclusion. Many brands cast efforts to promote the aforementioned buzzwords, but when companies don’t get it right, it can feel ingenuine. Kerby Jean-Raymond, founder and creative director of Pyer Moss, believes this is the case for the fashion analysis site, Business of Fashion (BoF). While attending BoF’s 500 Gala in Paris on September 30, Kerby took to Instagram to share his thoughts of the Gala, criticizing its insincere efforts of addressing diversity and inclusion. Last month, Kerby was one of the 100 fashion industry professionals added to the BoF 500 list, which details people shaping the global fashion industry. Jean-Raymond reluctantly attended the gala in Paris.
Baffling enough, the BoF 500 Gala welcomed guests with a gospel choir. In his statement, Kerby says “I came in around 10pm and Aurora’s (James, Brother Vellies Designer) face is like ‘did you see’ and I hadn’t ‘seen’ anything because I was an hour late. But as we’re talking, like literally on cue, here they come again, a black choir.”
Now, if you know anything about Pyer Moss’ brand DNA, then you’ll understand where the concern lies. Jean-Raymond has a history of congregating choirs for his runway shows. In fact, just last month Pyer Moss’s Collection 3 show consisted of a 65-person choir. “Pyer Moss Tabernacle Drip Choir Drenched in The Blood,” as they were named, were nothing short of black excellence. After sitting out New York Fashion Week in February, the collection was highly anticipated and did not disappoint. The all-black choir was simply icing on an already delicious cake.
Pyer Moss’s show created a safe space for so many black people during fashion week, dissimilar to the BoF 500 Gala, which seemed to leave a question mark on the faces of many. Aurora James also took to Instagram to voice her concerns about the Gala. “Not everyone gets to have a black gospel choir. I am so confused. Aren’t we supposed to be celebrating diversity? And inclusion? Not appropriation? We are at a fashion awards show. Fashion exploits more women of color than any other industry. Why is there a black gospel choir?”
Now while gospel choirs aren’t exclusive to Kerby, it seems many were confused about BOF’s use of a gospel choir—which indisputably aligns with black culture—to welcome guests to their event. Jean-Raymond perceived the choir as a form of appropriation rather than appreciation. In Kerby’s own words, “Homage without empathy and representation is appropriation. Instead, explore your own culture, religion and origins. By replicating ours and excluding us—you prove to us that you see us as a trend. Like, we gonna die black, are you?”
Kerby Jean-Raymond headlined his statement, “Business of Fashion 500 is now 499,” where he eloquently laid out his various interactions with the event, ultimately resulting in disapproval with both the Business of Fashion and its director Imran Amed. The concerns are obvious. “I have let a lot of shit slide because I do think a lot of problems can be resolved without public provocation. I typically prefer not to be blacklisted. I hate being the only one that talks up. I also enjoy peace. But — me getting checks is not going to stop me from checking you.” Kerby said.
Imran Amed responded to Kerby’s thoughts on BoF.com, “Kerby has every right to voice his concerns, and we respect his perspective. He is also right about several things. As Kerby points out, the fashion industry has often treated inclusivity as a trend, putting diverse faces in our ad campaigns, on our runways, on our magazine covers and, yes, at our parties because it’s cool and of the moment. But I can assure you that this topic is not a trend for BoF.” In the statement, Imran agreed with Raymond on his points and gave his deepest apologies.