'Inclusion Is a Trend for These Folks': Kerby Jean-Raymond Calls Out 'Insulting' BoF 500 Gala [Updated]

In his own words, the Pyer Moss designer details being "gaslighted" and "used" by 'Business of Fashion.'
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Kerby Jean-Raymond after the Pyer Moss Spring 2020 show. Photo: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

Kerby Jean-Raymond after the Pyer Moss Spring 2020 show. Photo: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

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"BoF 499, I'm off the list," Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond wrote from Paris Monday night. He may have only posted it to Instagram Stories, but it was a major statement nonetheless.

In September, Jean-Raymond was one of the 100 fashion professionals added to Business of Fashion's prestigious ongoing list of people shaping the global fashion industry, alongside the likes of Lizzo, Dapper Dan, Lindsay Peoples Wagner, Nathan Westling and more. But while attending the BoF 500 Gala in Paris Monday night, an annual event to celebrate these members, he took to social media to publicly condemn it for the seemingly disingenuous way in which it addressed diversity and inclusion.

Screenshot: @kerbito

Screenshot: @kerbito

Oddly, a Black gospel choir welcomed guests into the event. "This is some insulting shit," wrote Jean-Raymond, who has assembled gospel choirs — The Pyer Moss Tabernacle Drip Choir Drenched in The Blood, to be exact — for his last several shows, each of which aimed to highlight the untold stories of Black people's major contributions to American culture. Brother Vellies designer Aurora James also commented on the choir in her Instagram stories, tagging Business of Fashion and writing, "Not everyone gets to have a black gospel choir. I'm so confused. Aren't we supposed to be celebrating diversity [sic]? 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?" Reached for further comment, James added: "If being diverse and inclusive is that much work for people, that means it is not coming naturally to them, which is the heart of the problem."

In his final Instagram Story from the event, Jean-Raymond wrote, "Diversity and Inclusion is a trend for these folks. BoF 499, I'm off the list."

For Jean-Raymond, the gospel choir was only the straw that broke the camel's back following months of disappointing experiences with Business of Fashion, including being offered, and then denied, one of the BoF 500 magazine covers.

The BoF 500 Gala. Photo: Victor Boyko/Getty Images

The BoF 500 Gala. Photo: Victor Boyko/Getty Images

Below, in his own words, unedited, Jean-Raymond details what led up to and took place at the gala.

"We all got that talk when we were younger... the one that was like 'if your instinct is telling you not to leave the house, just stay in...'

I went against it.

Last night, against my better judgment I went to the BoF 500 gala. If you don't know BoF (The Business of Fashion) it's an industry publication that is known for breaking news on movements in the fashion industry. It's founder and EIC is Imran Amed. BoF puts out this list annually called the BoF 500. In addition, BoF is known for its Voices conference in London too. Both things have become prestigious in their own right.

To give context —

Last year, I was invited to speak at and attend BoF Voices. I was told they wanted to hear my story of the formation of PM and how I've navigated the industry. As an outsider for so long, I was proud to be invited and get to share my story. I saw it to be like a fashion version of TED. I was also excited that I'd be in a solo conversation with Bethann Hardison. I had stopped doing group panels.

My reason is that so many of these group panels just lump us all in, 'Black in Fashion' or 'Diversity & Inclusion' when the reality is my family is vastly different, making strides in every category - sustainability, politics, VC... But instead they make us speak all together in the commonality of our blackness and force us to disagree on stages in public, facilitate infighting and then we have to do the emotional labor to make the ops comfortable.

So I agreed to do this solo panel and they booked the flight, then at the very very last minute, like on the flight, they told My team that it was now a group panel. (Their plan all along.) Now it was to be moderated by Tim Blanks (who I respect); the panel would include Bethann Hardison, Patrick Robinson (Trailblazer, former creative director of Gap and Armani Exchange) and my friend LaQuan Smith. Because of my immense respect for Patrick and LaQuan as designers who like me are black, I did it, begrudgingly. But in reality all three of us have our own unique narratives and history's that warranted our own separate solo stages. The same solo stages that all the other white designers have received, for years.

The shit was lowkey degrading fam — but I let the audience know my 4th eye was open. (Go watch the video)... but later that night they held this 'Salon' conversation that was heated and problematic. I won't say shit else about that. Maybe my friends who were there can break it down better one day but a few of us left the campus that next day and dipped back to London, ending the trip 2 days early. We were indeed insulted then.

A few months after that hellish "Salon" and panel. Imran reaches out to me and asked to get on a call and talk. He said he was sorry and that he understood why we were all upset and left and that the miscommunication was Bethann's fault.

He said he'd seen the work I'd been doing with Pyer Moss and in the community and I'd been selected to be on one of the 3 covers of the BoF 500 magazine. Big 'oh shit' moment for me. 🥰, me, cover. So this now began a series of phone calls between him and I and meetings in Paris. I brought Jide with me to one of them.

In all these calls and talks he's picking my brain for names to include on this cover with me and a list of 'diverse' people for the 500; I threw out everyone from Kaep, Lena, Clarence Avon, Aurora, Valencia Clay, Nadia Lopez, Antoine Phillips, Precious Blood Ministries, Compton Cowboys, Andre Walker, Christopher John Rogers, Telfar, Heron, Cushnie, Bode, Jerry, Lil Kim, Cardi, Ebonee, Jessie Williams, Hov, Meek, Innocence Project, Richard Phillips, Jason Rembert, Ade, Kollin, Thelma Golden, Noor, Lizzo, Tracee, Jen Rubio, Chromat... you know, all of us.

I told him about Creative Director roles I'd been being offered, new projects I'm working on outside of PM and about my Reebok appointment a few months before it happened. I figured this is a cover story slated for September, so we can talk openly.

After our last meeting, he looked satisfied with the information he'd received and i left feeling chill but weird. Traffic was nuts getting to his spot from the Marais by the way and during our meeting there was a blackout at the spot he told us to meet him at. I should've known that was one of my ancestors trying to get me to shut the fuck up and not to talk to this man. 3rd eye was still waking up, 4th eye was closed. I looked at Jide and I said, something was off.

Then he hits me with this text like really soon after that meeting saying 'we are going to go a different route with the cover'...

I hit Nate like, bro, I felt it. I knew I was being played for info.

Fast forward to now—

They put me somewhere on the 500 list, and invited me to last nights Gala. I did not want to go at all. But I spoke to Eric and he was like let's just go be mixxy. I grab a suit out the showroom, buy some shoes (!!!) and we head over there.

I came in around 10pm and Aurora [James, Brother Vellies designer]'s 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.

Man, I was being good up until that point too. I texted Nate [Hinton, Jean-Raymond's publicist], and said 'I'm doing great, don't worry' he's always on the edge with me in spaces like that. I shook all the hands, I said all the nice things, played the game and then bam— mayonnaise!

I was like 60% 'had it' with this whole shit at that point then Imran gets on the mic and says something along the lines of 'I want to just shout out a few people who inspired us to focus our issue on Diversity and inclusion' and calls out the wildest names, maybe 20 names, including Olivier Rousteing and Pierpaolo Picolli as leaders in 'Diversity and Inclusion.' I was excluded.

To have your brain picked for months, be told that your talk at the 'salon' and work inspired this whole thing, and then be excluded in favor of big brands who cut the check is insulting.

So that brought it up to '80% had it.'

Then the choir comes back on stage. This man, Imran, turns into Kirk Franklin and starts dancing on the stage with them and shit. To a room full of white people. So now we at 90%. What inspires people to do this? What motivates someone to feel that they have the rights to do a Kirk Franklin dance on the stage? Because ultimately that level of entitlement is the core issue. People feeling like they can buy or own whatever they want ... if that thing pertains to blackness. We always up for sale.

So now we're here. In short, fuck that list and fuck that publication. I take no ownership of choirs, Christianity or curating safe spaces for black people. That's a 'We' thing.

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?

I'm offended that you gaslighted me, used us, then monetized it and then excluded us in the most disrespectful way to patronize companies that need 'racist offsets.' And I'm offended that you all made all them beautiful black and brown people feel really terrible to the point where some of my friends said 'this is helpless' and others left in tears. I was fine until they weren't fine. So I hit 100%.

I'm all for people trying— even when it's not perfect. I appreciate the brands that are starting committees, reaching out into ignored communities and doing their best to be inclusive in their hiring processes. I don't believe in 'canceling' people in general because it's like putting a band-aid on a shotgun wound. I also tend to believe most people are good. I also know we need allies. Resourced allies.

But I'm not with the explicit exploitation of our plight, culture and struggles for the benefit of your bottom line.

I made a promise to someone who passed 3 years ago that I was going to stay an open book after she was gone even when I fuck up royally and that I'd do my best to send the ladder back down. I intend to keep that promise. For a lot of people, we are the only peek they have into an industry they want to be a part of. I let a lot of shit slide because I do think a lot of problems can be resolved without public provocation.

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.
I think your brand is exploitative, you proved that it’s fueled by paid ads and shitty business practices. I understand that you have to make money, we all are selling something, but dawg, not your soul. And not ours.

And to the photographers I gave the middle finger to when we all stormed out, I apologize. I'm sure you deserved it but that was still in poor taste and I'm better than that."

Update, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 9:00 a.m.: Business of Fashion Editor Imran Amed has issued a response to Jean-Raymond's above statement.

"I am deeply sorry that I upset Kerby and have made him feel disrespected," he writes. "While we may disagree in our opinions on the gala and the details of our exchanges over the past year, Kerby has my complete respect and I would appreciate the opportunity to sit down with him and learn more about his concerns and how we at BoF can do better, especially as we try to address important topics like inclusivity."

You can read the full response here.

Note: This article was update after publishing with a comment from Aurora James.

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