At a time when more and more sportswear brands are partnering up with big-name designers, perhaps no other collaboration has been more successful than that between Reebok and Kerby Jean-Raymond. It was a brilliant move by the sportswear giant to tap the Pyer Moss founder. After all, his star has risen rapidly – celebrities, musicians, and the fashion elite alike have dubbed him the missing link in fashion. And for good reason.
The young Haitian-American isn’t afraid to lead the frontier of designers standing up for justice and voicing their opinions through their garments. With a design perspective rooted in unconventional cool – the type that can only be found in New York City – and a fearless approach towards his work, Jean-Raymond possesses a point of view that lends itself nicely to Reebok, as evidenced by the ‘American, Also’ capsule collection. It debuted during New York Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2018 and, more recently, made an appearance on our shores during the seventh edition of Sole DXB.
We spotted everything from updated sneakers and logo joggers to cropped hoodies and archive-inspired crewneck sweatshirts that evoke the zeitgeist of the 80s and 90s, making this collection more than a sneakerhead’s dream. It’s a sign of even more greatness to come from this partnership, one that promises to last at least two years. In this exclusive interview, Jean-Raymond spills more to Savoir Flair – black cowboys and bucket lists included.
Can you tell us what inspired the collaboration with Reebok?
The first collection was inspired by the black cowboys, who were the original cowboys that were whitewashed out of American history. The second collection was about black family and the reversal of the erasure of African-American contributions. We brought in prints by artists like Patrick Kelly, a prolific artist and fashion designer from the 80s and 90s who sadly passed away, but was one of the first pioneers to show on the official Paris calendar. The sneakers in the collection have been inspired by Reebok’s archives after revisiting and revamping those old pieces. Another thing that inspired the entirety of the Reebok collection is Reebok’s own heritage.
It had very cheeky ads in the 80s and 90s that were kind of “rude” in away [laughs] – they speak to my sense of humor and how I use it in our collection.
We noticed that the sneakers have detailing inside in the form of text. Where did that idea come from?
I just always want my work to feel personal and for people to know the amount of work it took to get it that far. Sometimes, we move so quickly and unsympathetically that we miss the fact that people put their blood, sweat, and tears behind something. So I feel that adding those messages into the shoes – and into the garments – forces people to see the human value in the product that we’re creating.
How important do you think empathy is?
I think we’re getting there, but we still have a lot of work to do. Because information flows so quickly and because we are constantly moving on, we don’t take time to focus on each other as much. I feel like there’s a movement of thought that’s happening right now, and it’s in fashion, movies, and music – people are stopping to take care of each other. That might be communities of people of color, different identities, things like that. We’re stopping to be more thoughtful to each other.
How have you implemented references of the US in your collection?
With America as a whole, we have “AS USA AS U” written throughout Collection 1, which for me represents the American identity that’s lost with constant imagery of Eurocentric people. It represents the people who built America – whether it’s Native Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans – but are constantly left out of the picture and the conversation.
Since culture drives your work, can you tell us a little about how New York inspires you?
New York is the most multidimensional city in the world. I grew up in a very rich environment full of people from different backgrounds – everyone in my community was an immigrant, so I was influenced by all of them. It is the perfect microcosm that represents the rest of the world.
You are known for your slogan tees. If you had to make a slogan tee about any borough in New York, which would it be?
Brooklyn, for sure. I can’t tell you what the slogan will be because I might be giving away an idea.
So does that mean something is coming then?
Yeah, possibly! [Laughs]
What’s one word you would use to describe Brooklyn?
Who, in your opinion, personifies Brooklyn in the fashion industry?
I would say Jay-Z is the most iconic because he shows how versatile he is. He’ll wear Timberland boots one day and really stay true to a silhouette that we know as typical Brooklyn – the jean shorts, the Reeboks. Then he’ll be in a business suit. He’s a hodgepodge of different ideas that come together very well.
What do you love about Brooklyn?
I just love its diversity and how it’s a borough that feels like its own country.
If you had to leave New York, where would you move?
Montreal. It feels like another melting pot. It’s a city that’s near and dear to me. I’ve been everywhere, but Montreal feels like home as well.
What’s another place that is on your bucket list?
Dubai was actually on my bucket list! Also, South Africa, Australia, and the islands of French Polynesia. I want to do the Che Guevara thing one day and ride motorcycles through South America.