Diversity, inclusivity, sensitivity: while there's a lot of lip service paid to doing better, how well the industry handles racial and ethnic representation is certainly still up for debate. While some brands, like Chromat and Gypsy Sport, are visibly striving towards a more inclusive and diverse future, there are many whose efforts are seriously lacking, a recent example being the casting at Chanel’s S/S 20 show that saw less than 20 models of colour in an 83-look line up.
Two days ago Pyer Moss creative director Kerby Jean-Raymond took to social media to express his disdain at being acknowledged as one of the Business of Fashion 500, stating ‘Business of Fashion 500 is now 499’ in an Instagram story. He followed up with a longer written statement a day later, detailing his reasonings behind his rejection of the title, and why he was so disappointed by the decisions of Business of Fashion (BoF) founder and editor-in-chief Imran Amed.
According to his statement, Kerby Jean-Raymond had had negative experiences with BoF since he was invited to speak at the website's Voices conference in 2018. Initially agreeing to a solo conversation with model Bethann Hardison, the remit of his conference appearance was changed last minute to a group panel - something that Jean-Raymond had decided to stop doing. While he did appear on the panel - a decision made out of his 'immense respect' for his other panellists - a 'Salon' talk later in the evening consolidated Jean-Raymond's discomfort: he notes that it was 'heated and problematic'.
Months later, after being selected to be one of three BoF 500 magazine covers, Jean-Raymond was thrilled and saw the opportunity as a major milestone in his career. He met with Amed for a tête-à-tête around the September cover story, and spoke honestly and unguardedly, giving suggestions on creatives to consider, information on creative director roles he’d been offered and his [then]-upcoming Reebok appointment, as well as new projects he was working on outside of Pyer Moss. Jean-Raymond writes that it wasn’t until BoF let him know the cover would not be happening after all that he came to the conclusion that he had been 'played for info’.
Jean-Raymond also expresses distaste at events at the BoF 500 gala that he attended on Monday night. He felt that the choice of entertainment - a gospel choir - was appropriative, and was disappointed not to have received public thanks for his contributions having inspired the BoF 500 issue's theme of 'diversity and inclusion' - despite Amed having told him that his appearances at the Voices conference had 'inspired the whole thing'. Feeling 'gaslighted', 'used', 'monetised', and 'disrespected', Jean Raymond notes that, ‘by replicating [black culture] and excluding us - you prove to us that you see us as a trend’.
The statement has been met with support from fellow members of the industry, including Campbell Addy, Chromat, Iman, Joan Smalls, and Virgil Abloh, as well as from new additions to the BoF 500 list, model Alton Mason and Teen Vogue editor Lindsay Peoples Wagner.
Yesterday, Imran Amed published a response on BoF, acknowledging the situation with Jean-Raymond and apologising for upsetting and disrespecting him. Explaining his choice of gala entertainment as harking back to having sung in choirs as a child, Amed assures his readers that inclusivity is not a trend to him, and BoF are committed to moving forward on it. He went on to say he would appreciate the opportunity to sit down with Jean-Raymond and learn more about his concerns and how BoF can do better, closing with, 'I believe that what both Kerby and BoF are aiming to achieve is to bring people together — not sow greater division — and I hope that we can be allies in the pursuit of this goal'.