“My personal philosophy is that when you’re doing branded content shorts, you need to start with something that immediately makes you say, ‘What is going on?’ said X over the phone. “When you turn on a music video or watch a movie, your brain says, ‘Oh, it's a piece of entertainment and I’m going to continue to watch it unless I don’t like it.’ But the subconscious agreement with advertising is ‘Here's something I’m forcing on you, and if you can avoid, you should.’ So I have to jack your brain.”
Director X jacked viewers’ brains by starting the short with the death of Kerby’s mother and her funeral. After that, a loving story unfolds around how a young boy recovers with help from seven women with varying purposes. There is his grandmother, who is actually his father’s aunt—his dad also lost his mother at age 7—who teaches him to plant; his godmother, who owns a restaurant and shows Kerby entrepreneurship; an academic mother who helps him with school work; and others. Throughout the film, the cast wears pieces from Collection 2, along with his collaborative line and sneaker with Reebok.
The story ends with his mother returning in spirit as Kerby sleeps—Kerby said that in the three years following his mother’s death, she would revisit him in his dreams, which is something he’s been hesitant to talk about throughout his life for fear of being ridiculed. Kerby said he had a delayed response to dealing with his mother’s death, and during the shoot he was faced with her funeral, which he didn’t attend in real life, and other feelings he wasn’t ready for.
“The whole shoot was super difficult. I don’t think I’m fully healed from my mother’s death because I never really knew the truth around how my mother died. I am just grateful that there were these women who came and have been in my life and made the transition easier for me,” said Kerby. “But the funeral segment in church with the casket was a lot for me. I kept on walking out and wandering because I’m not a good emoter. It was kind of forcing me to deal with something I wasn’t ready to deal with on that day.”
Shooting the film was an emotional gamble, but also a professional one. After winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund late last year, Kerby decided to remove himself from the official New York fashion calendar and not hold a show for the fall 2019 season. It’s a choice most designers in his position don’t make, for fear of losing momentum, press, and sales. But Kerby is certain that the current model—showing twice a year, every six months—is broken.
“Putting something in someone’s face and then, six months later, making it available after it’s been seen on every celebrity wasn’t working,” he said.
For Kerby, who considers Pyer Moss an art project that just happens to have merch, the fashion calendar doesn’t allow him to properly unpack stories around Collection 2, which includes collaborations with Fubu and artist Derrick Adams, whose paintings of black families appeared on garments. Adams also reworked prints from Patrick Kelly, the first black designer to show at Paris fashion week, for the Reebok capsule.
“When we showed the collection in early September, I knew it wasn’t done. I knew that there was no way that everything was going to be digested,” said Kerby. “With our consumers, we can create these moments around our collection whether it be a pop-up, a campaign, or runway show. That triggers instant demand, and usually our stuff is sold out within the first day or hour. We know that we don’t have the biggest fan base, but we have a loyal and understanding fan base. They understand these things should be treated more preciously than disposable fashion. We’re not that.”