Pyer Moss Is Killer

Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond smiles as he pushes aside his laptop and a leather camo swatch to rest a pair of pants on a table in front of us. This Sunday, tens of thousands of people will see his new collection at the Pyer Moss Spring/Summer 2014 presentation at MADE Fashion Week, but that’s not why Jean-Raymond is looking down at his creation like Kobe after hitting a game-winning jumper.

“This has to be my favorite piece,” he says, running his fingers over the fabric. “It’s just a chino from last season, but getting it made was my favorite story because we had to go to the slums of Istanbul to find this embroidery guy and we almost got robbed trying to get back to Takism. The cab driver got mad at us because my friend’s name is Israel and because of the political climate and tension between Israel and Turkey, he kicked us out of the cab and made us walk. And it was just a shit show getting these pieces done, but it’s definitely my favorite piece.”

Tall and lean in a gray T-shirt, jeans and bright blue-and-gold kicks, Jean-Raymond looks less like a fashion-conscious Indiana Jones traveling the world in search of new designs than the sneaker head he was more than a decade ago when he first broke into the industry. At age 14 he was hired by Kay Unger to help design her first pajama collection, and over the next 10 years he worked with women’s brand Marchesa and later held freelance design gigs with Theory, Marc Jacobs and Victoria Keen, among others.

Although he always kept one foot in the fashion industry, it wasn’t until Jean-Raymond was rolling into into a corporate job in an Audi RS 4 that he knew he was on the wrong path. “I made a lot of money, but I couldn’t sleep at night,” he says. “I hated the job so much. I hated the people I worked with. They were probably good people, but it was like putting mice in a little room with a single piece of cheese and letting them go at each other to survive.**”

“I started designing when I was fourteen. I should’ve stayed with it,” he says, laughing. “I should’ve stuck with my gut the first time.”

In mid-August, Jean-Raymond shared a photo on Instagram of his “Jabber” sweatshirt. Like other Pyer Moss pieces, it dresses up a clean design with details such as khaki leather trim and neckline button details. He shared the photo with a caption: “To my friend Sarah who encouraged me to make this collection one night at Trump Soho after I sketched my line out on a napkin.”

“After working on or attempting to start lines for so long in the past and not really going anywhere with it, I was just defeated, you know,” he says of that night. “I sketched out the whole line for fall season, ‘cause we were drinking. She was like, ‘This is great. You should do this — make me a sweatsuit, ‘cause I know you’ll make a sweatsuit and then name it after me. So I did that and that’s when I got the idea to name every piece after one of my friends.”

This season his dad is getting a shirt with a ton of pockets that run up and down the front where a general’s medals might go (“My dad would always keep money in all these different pockets so I made this with him in mind,” he says). His mother already has a claim on the collection. When she left Haiti to live in the U.S., she had to change her maiden name, Moss, to a cousin’s, Pierre, which he has stylized as Pyer. At times a beautician, a designer and a nurse, she taught her son to play with fabric before she died when he was seven.

“When my mother died, I kinda lashed out,” he says. “My father took on a new wife, who made it very clear she didn’t like me. I was acting up in school. I would get into fights a lot. I would get into five minutes with a lot of people. Five minutes in my neighborhood is you lock yourself in a room for five minutes and you just beat the hell out of each other.”

In January, Rihanna stepped out from a MyStudio party wearing a Pyer Moss “Killer” moto jacket and threw a spotlight on Jean-Raymond’s fledgling brand before his first collection debuted at New York Fashion Week or hit stores. Since then, Chris Brown has worn a Pyer Moss shirt in BLANK magazine, though Jean-Raymond says he’s more excited when he see people wearing his clothes outside of magazine shoots: “When the person hangs it in their closet, that’s huge.”

His design process has changed subtly over the years. When he worked in women’s wear, he’d sketch out pieces individually, but after switching his focus to menswear with Pyer Moss, Jean-Raymond draws out an entire outfit from shoulder to ankle before plugging it into a CAD program. If the design holds up, he’ll throw it into Photoshop and play with different color schemes before calling up mills and visiting fabric stores to get the material. If he isn’t happy with the piece at any stage, he’ll kill it. But if it works, then the entire process from conception to production can be completed in four or five days because almost everything is now produced in New York.

“It can be the smallest thing. It could a be a curve,” he says of inspirations for his collections. “All of my T-shirts were inspired by the curves in the Guggenheim. To me, that’s a small thing. This time, it’s a sport. It’s just one single sport as opposed to a bunch of little things that mean nothing.”

Everyone will have to wait until Sunday to see exactly which sport the collection draws upon, but Jean-Raymond says that by focusing on a single idea, he’s finally able to create a collection that hangs together instead of juggling a hodgepodge of pieces. “When all these magazines were interviewing me, they were like, “What’s the inspiration behind this collection?’ And I was like, “Well, I designed this piece because I wanted it.’ So now this collection is inspired by something that carries throughout the line, throughout the entire range.”

Photos by Chaunte Vaughn**

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