Meet the Next Big Fashion Group
Kerby Jean-Raymond has spent the last year and a half secretly trying to change the game for minority designers.
In the summer of 2020, when the United States was being roiled by the aftermath of the George Floyd murder and businesses of all kinds were coming face to face with their own systemic racism, Kerby Jean-Raymond, the founder and designer of Pyer Moss, who has used his brand to shed light on Black history as well as police brutality, began to get a lot of calls.
“Everyone was saying we need to do something, we need to start something — Black this, Black that,” Mr. Jean-Raymond said.
“I was like, ‘Actually, I already did.’”
Months earlier he and Kering, the French luxury group, had quietly begun working on a project called Your Friends in New York, conceived to support emerging designers of color and rebalance their lack of representation in fashion.
But it was a long-term idea and shrouded in mystery; no one knew exactly what it was, and the founders weren’t talking, aside from a brief news release announcing its inception. Here’s what it did not involve: posting black squares on Instagram.
Here’s what it did: creating a company that would act as an incubator to shape nascent, outside-the-establishment businesses into profitable ventures, the better to create what Mr. Jean-Raymond, 35 and the majority shareholder, called “an ecosystem where I feel safe and comfortable to win and lose.”
“With Black people, there can only be one of us,” he said. “And when there’s two of us or three of us, they pit us against each other. That’s a real thing. Now, every Black designer who comes out with a bag is compared to Telfar.”
He wanted to change the pattern. And if fashion wasn’t set up to create that world, he was going to build it for himself.
For the last year, a group of eight designers chosen by Mr. Jean-Raymond has been working under the banner of YFINY, moving in and out of space in an old warehouse in Industry City on the Brooklyn waterfront.
They include Edvin Thompson of Theophilio, who was just named emerging designer of the year at the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards; Anifa Mvuemba, who in mid-November had her first live Hanifa show at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington; Taofeek Abijako, the founder of Head of State, which had its first presentation on the main New York Fashion Week calendar in September; and Raul Lopez of Luar, whose recent handbag release sold out in two hours, according to the designer.