Who is Kerby Jean-Raymond?

He is one of the fashion world’s boldest voices: Kerby Jean-Raymond, founder of fashion label Pyer Moss, always has something to say. Whether it be by producing t-shirts that read “stop calling 911 on the culture” or a beaded gown depicting a black father holding his newborn, Kerby has always been committed to rewriting black people back into the story by normalising blackness. This strive for equality, diversity and ultimately inclusion is something that puts him at the forefront of the progressive fashion world.

The Haitian-American Brooklyn native experienced a backlash in 2015 for his outspoken approach. With one retailer even dropping his line after he produced a video addressing police brutality for a show. Yet to show you how much the landscape has changed from then to now, Kerby is now openly hired specifically to offer his unique perspective.

Kerby Jean-Raymond becomes new Artistic Director at Reebok

In a rather unprecedented move by sportswear brand Reebok, Kerby Jean-Raymond has been hired as the new Artistic Director of Reebok Studies__. A new division at the company which will foster “under-the-radar” creative talent and ideas. While his Reebok by Pyer Moss partnership, which debuted in 2017, has also been extended.

The thing that attracted Reebok to Kerby initially, was his ambition to change things. Not on a small scale but to change the broader culture of the industry. Which was one of the principal reasons why he insists on a partnership with Nike as apposed to a collaboration. A power move which has seen other creatives like Jerry Lorenzo also seek more creative control of their work with well known brands. Notably with Lorenzo insisting on his own silhouette with Nike.

Reebok Studies__

Kerby first pitched the idea for Reebok Studies__ to then-Interim Head of Reebok Classics, Neal Taylor in 2018. ” I felt like there was a lot of focus around general product and not enough focus on the themes and the fashion components that we know to be cool. I understood that to ask a company who was in motion with so many projects to sit and focus on other young designers was a lot for them, so I made myself available and said, ‘Let me start sending you new ideas” Kerby explained. While Reebok did not immediately form Reebok Studies__ as a result of Kerby’s pitch. It was fleshed out and brought into fruition amid the Reebok by Pyer Moss contract renewal this year.

The division’s name is actually the best way to describe the work it intends to do. What the name implies is that the group will focus on one subject at a time, seeking to “uncover the human nature of things and show the importance of people’s lives and stories.” Whether it be an athlete or a designer, or any sort of collaborator, Reebok will study them, hence the name. Looking into their personalities, doing a deep dive and focus on each of these people.

The initial aim we believe for Reebok Studies__ won’t necessarily be product driven. Though select pieces may be released with campaigns with “flagship product” that then trickles down to other areas of the company. Instead the focus will be on recruitment. Giving Kerby Jean-Raymond the opportunity to grow the brand by employing select talent:

“I want to sign all the cool young designers. To give everybody a place to come and create good collabs and build partnerships with the company. I want to open the door. Sometimes you have to break through the window to open the door, so that was my intent.”

What it means for Reebok as a brand?

Jean-Raymond’s cultural connection is what makes him expertly placed to spearhead this new approach by Reebok. His ability to envision the future and how it can impact people on the planet is his main skill; something Reebok want to cultivate. Funneling young creative minds into this division of Reebok in the hope of improving everyone involved in a very noble ethos. One that isn’t too dissimilar to the ideas behind Kanye West’s DONDA which helped establish many of the fashion worlds current heavy hitters; the likes of Jerry Lorenzo, Samuel Ross and Virgil Abloh.

What this means for Reebok in terms of product is still unclear. What is known for certain, however, is it can only be a good thing for the footwear landscape as a whole. Traditionally Reebok don’t really enter the conversation when it comes to the big three: Nike, Adidas and Air Jordan. Instead sitting in a sort of second tier which they share the space with Puma and New Balance. A move like this can certainly be seen as one in the right direction to closing the gap between the two. Making noise, inspiring change, and progressing the industry are all things Kerby Jean-Raymond specialises in, and they are all things that are going to get Reebok noticed. For all the right reasons.

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