The Pyer Moss founder has launched a Kering-backed incubator scheme supporting the likes of Theophilio, Luar, and Hanifa

Kerby Jean-Raymond has spent the last year and a half working on a secret project to bolster the next generation of Black designers. In early 2020, the founder and designer of Pyer Moss approached the luxury fashion conglomerate Kering with a plan to create a talent incubator which would shape emerging, outside-the-establishment labels into profitable businesses, and thus Your Friends in New York was born.

“With Black people, there can only be one of us,” Pyer Moss told The New York Times. “And when there’s two of us or three of us, they pit us against each other. That’s a real thing. Now, every Black designer who comes out with a bag is compared to Telfar.” His aim was to disrupt this pattern and lay the foundations for a more hospitable industry for young designers of colour. Buttressed by shareholder investment but still working in relative mystery, Jean-Raymond invited a group of eight designers into his YFiNY fold including Edvin Thompson of Theophilio, Anifa Mvuemba of Hanifa, and Raul Lopez of Luar.

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It’s perhaps fashion’s answer to a Silicon Valley accelerator programme, whereby the company helps with financing, production, and planning, but does not own a stake in any of the individual brands. Together they share business tips and best practices like a support group, or a fashion cooperative, while YFiNY focuses on building infrastructure for the brands, including trademark protection, accounting, and even therapy. The structure marries sponsorship and community, with SSENSE, Beats By Dre, and Instagram adding to the offering with their own insights, products, and mentorship schemes. In return for their support, they get first eyes on upcoming designers, while Jean-Raymond is freed from the “guilt” of having beat the system. 

Designers don’t sign a contract, per se, but they are expected to use their grants in the ways in which YFiNY have laid out. Jean-Raymond frames YFiNY as an alternative to prestigious fashion awards, which tend to be more reputational than quantifiable and Laurent Claquin, the head of Kering Americas, called it “an investment in relationships”. New York is only the beginning, though. Pyer-Moss and his team want to export the concept to other cities, imagining Your Friends in Los Angeles, Your Friends in Hong Kong, and Your Friends in London. “It’s not fun alone,” Jean-Raymond said of being a Black designer. “I need people to compete with. I’m trying to build a community so I can find reasons to keep loving it and keep doing it.”