Tahirah Hairston’s article on Kerby Jean-Raymond in the Cut landed like a Bomb in the Black Fashion community yesterday. In the piece, Hairston takes a deep dive into the life and legacy of Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, detailing how the Haitian American New Yorker ascended from a broken home to the tops of the fashion totem pole, winning a CFDA Award, coming under the tutelage of Kering’s Laurent Claquin, securing millions in funding, and ultimately becoming one of the most celebrated Black Designers of our generation.
Apparently Jean-Raymond has also not been the best at business development or management. He recently laid off most of his employees, and consumers looking to purchase Pyer Moss clothes won’t have much luck. Several anonymous employees interviewed for the article insinuate that Jean-Raymond, instead of investing in creating collections, splurged on company trips, paid overdue bills, and created accessories that are still sitting on shelves (read more on FashionBombDaily.com).
The article is brilliant. But Jean Raymond isn’t the first designer or business owner to stumble, make bad decisions, or lay off workers. I don’t know Kerby very well, but do know that running a business is one of the hardest things anyone can do.
I started Fashion Bomb Daily 17 years ago as a hobby. I was just a fashion obsessed writer angling to get a job at a fashion magazine. The industry wasn’t as ‘woke’ when I started as it is today, and because glossy magazines were not creating spaces for black talent, I struck out on my own and started a blog. I never imagined that my blog would turn into a business. Once I started making money from blogging, I had to learn how to be a leader, delegate, hire, and fire by doing.
I didn’t have a business degree. I had never even taken a business course! And Lord knows I made lots and lots and lots of mistakes. I didn’t always know how to speak to people. I didn’t always know how to delegate. I didn’t always know how to allocate funds (I thought for a long time that the business bank account was my personal piggy bank). I made all kinds of errors and was able to learn and correct for them. I STILL make mistakes. Figuring out how to run a successful business is not second nature for many creatives.
Most small businesses fail. And particularly in the fashion industry, designers are not given the real tools and resources they need to help their businesses grow. Designers like Kerby are given all this money with no blueprint or roadmap on how to fly. You’d be surprised how many designers have splashy shows along with a great online presence and don’t have more than a couple threads of clothing to sell.
Because of that, the article seems heavy handed and unfair (and no, I’m not ‘slamming‘ the writer. Hairston did her job and she did it well.) My issue is with the assignment. Why him? Why now? Why right before Black History Month and New York Fashion Week?
As I wrote on Fashion Bomb Daily, John Varvatos, Zac Posen, and others have been afforded the luxury and privilege of failing in private. Jean-Raymond’s business is on front street.
Poking around and talking to designers and stylists in the community, it seems Jean-Raymond may not have been the easiest to get along with. Apparently he’s no longer friends with people he had long standing relationships with. Perhaps this article was more personal vs. professional. But committing time and energy to analyzing someone for not having their business together is simply not fair, especially in our current economic climate.
A commenter on @TheCut , @YungChelly, said it so eloquently, “White entrepreneurs are free to fail, learn, raise more money or move on, sometimes all of the above without personally charged think pieces and people applauding someone’s downfall…this is a systematic issue that the article failed to address. This harms current and future leaders and dreamers who although should not be free of criticism should be afforded the ability to fail, learn and grow especially in unprecedented times. “
Another systematic issue: crabs in a barrel. But I’ll save that for another article.
I’m sending prayers of prosperity to all my fellow entrepreneurs out there. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. For me, Faith has played a huge role in what I do. And hope for a better tomorrow.
I’m sending love and light to Kerby Jean-Raymond and Tahirah Hairston, just as fellow humans. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that leading with love solves all grades of problems. Keep your head up.
Love & Light,