There is an intrinsic dynamism and youthful vigor that’s inherent in every Pyer Moss garment. It’s a palpable energy that eclipses any one genre or lifestyle; it’s high-end, luxe, futuristic, motocross – all rolled into one. But the integrity of the design stands out above all. It’s no wonder really that influential celebs like Usher and Rihanna are so drawn to this brand. We visited the NYC showroom of Pyer Moss to chat with rising star designer Kerby Jean-Raymond about his brand’s rapid ascent. See our conversation below:
“The futurism movement in architecture heavily inspires me …”
First off, what’s the science behind the name Pyer Moss?
My mom, Vania Moss, moved to the USA in the early 80’s from Haiti, and in order to become legal, she was sponsored by one of her cousins who had been living here. She changed her last name to his, which is Pierre to expedite the green card process. I changed the spelling of Pierre to closely resemble the Haitian traditional spelling, which is “Pye.” The name Pyer Moss is an ode to her journey. She passed away when I was 7 in 1994.
When did you start the brand and what was your fashion background and experience before launching it?
I was lucky to know what I wanted to do at an early age. At 13, I went off to the High School of Fashion Industries, a vocational school in Chelsea that offered majors like garment construction and fashion design.
In my freshman year I had a homeroom class that I was really disruptive in, the teacher liked me anyhow and thought I could use a challenge and told me about a possible internship opportunity for me after school, working with her roommate. About a week later, I started at Kay Unger New York as an intern. It started out with a lot of photocopying. I hated it. But then I met Kay Unger personally and she changed my life. I grew in that position and later when Kay was helping to start Marchesa, she put me on that team.
This was all in High School. In college, my life became all about paying for my meal plan, books and dates so I bounced around in a lot of freelance design positions from Theory to Victoria Keen to Marc Jacobs. I had other jobs too, I was a taxi dispatcher, I was on Geek Squad, I worked at Sprint, AT&T, and at the airport loading cargo planes. I also had my own streetwear brand, which I sold.
After college I started focusing on my passion again, and I officially launched the brand for the SS14 season. I took a trip to Istanbul in late 2012 to clear my mind and there I learned how to tailor and develop a men’s garment.
Your garments have a heavy emphasis on cut, construction and precise detailing. Some of the pieces are almost architectural in their execution – how did you develop this aesthetic?
The majority of Pyer Moss garments were built on the silhouette of athletic uniforms, then tailored for daily wear and sensibility. Complex pattern making and mixed media are necessary with this collection. When my production team tells me that two fabrics can not go together like cashmere and gore-tex, I know that I have to do it. The “futurism” movement in architecture heavily inspires me and it reflects in my sharp lines. I can tell how good a piece will be by how hard my pattern makers and seamstresses cringe.
Your leather pieces especially are quite sublime – where do you source your fabrics and how did you become such a skilled leather craftsman?
We source all of our leather from Italy. The things the Italian tanneries come up with are insane and I can find a use for almost anything that others would say is too crazy or non-sellable.
I learned all I did about leather from my extended stay in Istanbul. After seeing all the tanneries and leather printers lined up on streets in Istanbul I decided I wanted to develop camouflage leather for my own use. At this point I was still uncertain whether or not I wanted to go forward with a collection. I would go door to door and try to explain this print and no one understood me, my Turkish is terrible, my google translate app required Wi-Fi, and almost everyone had high minimums. By chance I met this guy, who may be the only French speaking Turkish-born Chinese person ever, who I was able to speak to in French. He owned a small factory around the corner, and he had been producing for some major French brands and he helped me to develop the “Killer” biker jacket which was my first perfect fitting leather piece. That piece is the rubric to which our outerwear fits are based.
Who would you say is the Pyer Moss man? Are there any celebrities/personalities on the scene that you feel embody your brand’s aura?
The Pyer Moss man is a combination of all my closest friends and me. The one thing we all have in common is how active and grungy we are. We are all thrill seekers.
Usher is a good example of the Pyer Moss man – he’s very active, educated, he rides a motorcycle, loves cars and drives a lifted Jeep Wrangler with big ass tires.
Your garments are made right here in NYC? That’s really rare to find these days – why did you go this route?
I tried for all of 10 minutes to work with overseas factories. It dawned on me that I am too much of a control freak, in fact 80% of the garments are made in our own factory which is on the same floor as our office and each production piece is personally checked by me and the others are done no more than 3 blocks away.
Celebrities love your pieces – Rihanna rocked your camo leather jacket, Usher is a fan too. How does that make you feel to see major influencers flocking to your brand?
It’s surreal to see people I respect and admire in any walk of life support the collection. It’s even crazier to see them at the Pyer Moss shows.
What is the most enriching aspect of running and designing a brand – conversely what’s the most taxing or stressful part?
This season I had 2 stores sell out their selections within 4 days. That’s always amazing. I had an editor wander into our NYFW presentation and say “what brand is this, it kind of looks like Pyer Moss.” That was good too, because in just two seasons I kind of have a look already that’s identifiable. I won the FGI Rising Star award too in the Menswear category.
Stressful? Everything else. But if I wanted a non-fulfilling job without a challenge I would’ve stayed in Law School. Zing.
What do you do or where do you go for designing inspiration and inspiration for life in general?
For themes, I go to church. For color blocking, I go to the supermarket. For fabrication, I travel a lot and stare at people to see if they are uncomfortable or comfortable in their clothes.
What can we expect from the Pyer Moss S/S 2015 collection?
Is there one quote or piece of advice you can give to young designers or creatives about following their dreams and persevering through all their doubts, obstacles and fears?
You only have about 70 years here, why waste any time?
Lastly where can people purchase your clothes and where do you picture Pyer Moss 5 to 10 years from now?
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