Branding is an extension of storytelling. An integral yet common communicative experience, storytelling accounts for roughly 65% of all human conversation. It’s how we pass down societal norms and spread innovation through generations and across cultural lines. The challenge for most brands is to communicate sincere social awareness, often regarding issues of no direct association.
Perhaps that’s the reason Pyer Moss resonates so deeply.
Led by founder and lead designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, Pyer Moss is an insightful case study on effective modern branding. Social awareness and responsibility are at the core of the company, rather than being strategically contrived. By embracing storytelling rooted in social commentary, theater and activism, Kerby has established an authentic perception for Pyer Moss as a platform powered by the push for equality, translated through content and felt tangibly through its fabric and aesthetic.
Organic social commentary
Social commentary is the modern highway billboard for large brands, which are presumably out of touch if they choose to stay neutral on societal issues for the sake of public relations. After releasing their Colin Kaepernick ad endorsing his career-ending protest against police brutality, Nike saw a 31% jump in sales translating to a 5% increase in stock value. Still, blindly following the trend of social commentary can be detrimental to a brand’s public perception. Pepsi found this out the hard way after their nosedive of a campaign featuring Kendall Jenner was widely received as a mockery of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Pyer Moss is positioned the way only an authentic brand can be. It’s not some corporate giant co-opting a movement with no actual ties to the issues it references for the sake of capital gain. Pyer Moss is a culmination of the blood, sweat and tears of a man who lives the experience of the community his art empowers. Where other brands see a marketing trend, Pyer Moss sees an obligation.
That’s why the brand’s 2015 New York Fashion Week debut made headlines for the socially conscious message it communicated not only through apparel but also through film. Having an audience sit through 15 minutes of well-known and unknown incidents of police brutality before seeing a stitch of clothing is a statement of verity. It says this brand is not here to entertain, it’s here to make you aware. Whether or not that comes with discomfort, you will deal.
Consumer education through theater
A powerful brand understands the value of educating the consumer in a way that compliments their experiential expectations. Through his tactful use of the performing arts as a tool for addressing the state of society and showcasing a product, Kerby displays a natural intuition with trends in customer expectations while being ahead of the curve in differentiating the Pyer Moss brand position.
This was made evident during the 2019 New York Fashion Week when he featured an eight-piece band to educate 3,000 attendees on black America’s contribution to pop culture. Songs by Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Frank Ocean, Lil’ Kim and more filled the theater while Pyer Moss’ spring 2020 line was on display. He brought the fashion industry to the black consumer group’s comfort zone that inspires what’s coming down runways in the first place.
The show was put on at King’s Theatre in Brooklyn’s Weeksville neighborhood, one of the first three black communities in the United States. That type of aggregated intentionality can’t be manufactured in some marketing department; it’s personal.
Kerby was elected to the 2019 Business of Fashion 500 (BoF500) list of creatives making influential waves in the global fashion industry. Disappointingly, the experience left him feeling more disrespected than honored due to appropriation, lack of proper credit and setting of false expectations.
Kerby let his frustrations be heard in a time when most creatives would’ve remained silent out of fear of being blacklisted. He called out BoF’s lack of respect for him and black culture live at the BoF500 Gala to his over 100,000 Instagram followers and in an open letter on Medium. Kerby held BoF’s founder and editor in chief publicly accountable in a time when famed institutions are still coming to grips with being held responsible for offensive engagements with marginalized groups. Kerby’s real-time activism positioned Pyer Moss as a platform requiring respect and consideration rather than a faceless entity that can be handled distastefully.
Pyer Moss’ public perception isn’t the result of some brand bible with a mission statement full of buzzwords. Instead, it comes from the innate principles of its founder and lead designer, who aims to use the platform to challenge social narratives and evoke dialogue with a message you can see, hear and wear all at the same time.