Kerby BoF

Designer Kerby- Jean Raymond founder of luxury brand Pyer Moss calls out BoF for its culture appropriation as well as a series of events that reveal ingenuity of the BoF. If you haven’t read the statement by Kerby, you can find it here. There are 5 key pieces that Kerby touches on, that white people must understand when it comes to exploiting and appropriating black culture.

1. Black People Are Not One- Dimensional

While we are a family. We are a colorful family, made up of different narratives, ideologies, religions and upbringings. Like all cultures, we have a commonality of experiences that unite us no matter where we are. But as Kerby points out in his statement, we are not one- dimensional.

“So many of these group panels just lump us all in, ‘Black in Fashion’ or ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ when the reality is my family is vastly different, making strides in every category– sustainability, politics, VC… but instead they make us speak all together in commonality of our blackness.”

Kerby BoF

2. You Do Not Own the Rights to Black Culture

I’ve written on this recently, “A Brief History of Black Inclusion in Fashion, Inclusivity is Important, But Ownership is Indispensable.“. Black Culture as Kerby put it, is not “up for sale.” White America through history has claimed ownership of people, land, language, music, art for centuries. And while we’ve progressed, the entitlement has shown up in several other ways. One being the use of black culture and faces as propaganda. Take for instance A black choir placed as a back drop at the BoF ‘Diveristy and Inclusion Gala’ for a “mostly white audience in Paris,” stated Elaine Welteroth, author and former Editor-In- Chief of Teen Vogue. This is an example of appropriation.

Kerby BoF

I’ve had my own experiences of larger white platforms exploiting my ideas and work for their own brand. Not only is it obvious, it is ignorant and heartless. Do not self profess “Ally” when your business and brand uses marginalized groups to increase your numbers and expand your portfolio.

3. We Need Allies, Not Opportunists

Allies are those with privilege who will go into the fight with us. Who are willing to risk something big for the greater good of an oppressed group. We need Allies. What we don’t need are those who are involved just to look good for society. Just because marginalized groups are being put at the forefront of large brands and as a result these brands are growing, does not mean you should now ride the wave. If you’re not willing to take the blows, but you utilize black faces, culture for branding, you’re not an ally, you’re an opportunist.

4. Diversity and Inclusion is Not a Trend

Do not use the terminology as a subcategory. The marginalize:, black and Latinx, transgender and non-binary people and People with disabilities should be making big decisions and leading the way in your companies–not just on the covers. And while they’re at it, you should take no credit for the content and success thereafter.

5. We Can Smell the B.S.

We can tell when you’re not really for us. As Kerby put it, our 4th eyes are open. We can smell a culture- vulture, an opportunist a mile away. We know when we’re being used. Instead you should educate yourself. Get to know the people, their values, allow yourself to be invited into the space. It must be organic. This takes time and evolution. It will not happen overnight. Be an advocate, be an ally willing to take some blows.

Kerby BoF

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