"Business of Fashion 500 is Now 499"
Kerby Jean-Raymound has disaffiliated with The BOF 500. Here’s why.
By Abby Fritz
On Oct. 1, Kerby Jean-Raymound, the founder and designer behind Pyer Moss, publicly declared his disaffiliation from the Business of Fashion (BOF) 500 due to cultural appropriation and mistreatment. In response, BOF founder and editor-in-chief Iman Amed wrote how he’s “listening to Jean-Raymound”, but put forth no course of action on BOF’s part moving forward.
The day after BOF’s annual BOF 500 gala in Paris, which had a focus on inclusivity and diversity, an event that brings together major figures in the fashion industry, Jean-Raymound published a piece on Medium, putting BOF on the spot for doing the exact opposite of inclusion within diversity.
Jean-Raymound wrote how shocked he was to see the gala featuring the “local, multi-racial choir” VOICES2GETHER, as Amed described it . He felt it was extremely inappropriate to feature a choir reminiscent of a black gospel choir in a setting that catered more to elite (and predominantly white) fashion industry figures.
Aurora James, designer for Brother Vellies, who was also at the event, commented through an instagram story how she felt this was a blatant act of cultural appropriation. She also mentioned the hypocrisy of the situation, considering the choirs placement at a fashion event, when fashion has historically exploited black culture—particularly black women.
Jean-Raymound spoke to his further disappointment with the event as Amed gave thanks to people for inspiring the gala’s theme like Olivier Rousteing and Pierpaolo Picolli, when Amed had been told his talk at “Salon”, a BOF’s VOICES event in 2018, and his work at Pyer Moss had inspired the theme.
“Homage without empathy and representation is appropriation...by replicating ours and excluding us — you prove to us that you see us as a trend. Like, we gonna die black, are you?” Jean-Raymound wrote.
After this speech given by Amed, he proceeded to dance with the choir VOICES2GETHER in what Jean-Raymound described as a “Kirk Franklin dance”.
Furthermore, Jean-Raymound spoke to the treatment he received prior to the event from BOF as disrespectful.
During the 2019 BOF VOICES program, Jean-Raymound was offered an opportunity to speak at a solo panel about his brand Pyer Moss. He stated in his piece on Medium that he had stopped doing panels on diversity because he felt “many of these group panels just lump us all in, ‘Black in Fashion’ or ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ when the reality is my family is vastly different, making strides in every category .”
Jean-Raymound was not told until he was on the plane to the event that he would actually be sitting on a group panel.
Against his wishes, Jean-Raymound obliged, but ended the trip two days early after what Jean-Raymound described as a “hellish” discussion at the BOF VOICES “Salon”, saying only that it was “heated and problematic.”
Jean-Raymound was later contacted, after the BOF’s VOICES debacle, by Amed to be on the cover for the BOF 500 issue. Jean-Raymound did multiple interviews with him, detailing unreleased information regarding Pyer Moss and other projects including Jean-Raymound, that would be relevant when the cover came out, but were undisclosed at the time.
Promptly after the final interview with Amed, Jean-Raymound got a text saying BOF decided to go in a different direction with the cover.
BOF instead featured Pierpaolo Piccioli, Adut Akech, Dapper Dan, and Chika on the BOF 500 cover.
“To have your brain picked for months...then be excluded in favor of big brands who cut the check is insulting. Pay attention to the brands on the covers.” Jean-Raymound wrote.
This story went viral online. Many other industry professionals backed Jean-Raymound’s criticism of BOF including Elaine Welteroth and Linsay Peoples Wagner.
The day after Jean-Raymound posted his story on Medium, Amed responded through an article posted on BOF as a “[reflection] on the American designer’s comments on the BoF 500 gala.”
Amed assured readers that BOF believes “Kerby has every right to voice his concerns and we respect his perspective,” then went on to explain his rationale behind the events that transpired at the BOF 500 gala.
Notably commenting that “the choir boy in me” inspired his decision to invite VOICES2GETHER, since choir was the only place where Amed felt he could “just be [himself],” as a child.
He also combatted Jean Raymound’s claims that BOF could take diversity and inculsitivety as a fad because Amed himself is a queer immigrant.
“I was also the only brown kid in my class. And, although I didn’t know it then, I was gay.” Amed said.
Yet, being a marginalized person of color does not excuse cultural appropriation or serve as proof that someone will take the plight of other people of color seriously.
Amed apologized to Jean-Raymound for how he “made him feel disrespected” but that they simply “disagree in [their] opinions on the gala and the details of [their] exchanges over the past year.”
Amed did not give any specific ways in which BOF will address Jean-Raymound’s concerns moving forward and did not address Jean-Raymound’s claims that BOF “played [him] for info.”
Jean-Raymound has not commented on Amed’s response to him.
BOF also posted a piece covering the incident on Oct. 3rd by Chavie Lieber, claiming the “story was written without input or editorial guidance from BoF Founder and Editor-in-Chief.”
The story gave a rundown of the events that transpired at the BOF 500 gala, including responses from many other attendees at the event on how they felt about Jean-Raymound’s claims.
Lieber also made a point to acknowledge Jean-Raymound’s concerns about being “exploited” for information, and even tied in how brands like Gucci and Chanel have diversity chiefs to help avoid incidents like these.
There was still no commentary on what BOF would specifically be doing to prevent any mishaps like the 2019 BOF 500 gala moving forward.