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Kerby Jean-Raymond doesn’t follow the leader—he is one. With his brand, Pyer Moss, the New York–based designer creates collections that are directional (some argue that he was the catalyst for streetwear in luxury) and informed by the struggle of Black people in America. He operates on a different level from the rest of the fashion industry, perhaps on a higher realm. And as someone who is, more than most, tapped into the zeitgeist, he is well aware of the coronavirus pandemic and the damage it is inflicting on the population. He sees the plight that many are facing, and, characteristically, is taking charge and doing something to help.
On his and Pyer Moss’s Instagram account, Jean-Raymond posted two messages that shed light on pervasive concerns, and what he and his company are doing to solve them. The first relays the lack of adequate supplies available to medical professionals.
“Many of them, including my sister, have not had enough N95 masks and some are without gloves,” he wrote. “My sister was exposed to COVID-19 and her elder patients’ safety have been compromised due to some professionals having to wear makeshift masks.
“One of the more alarming messages, from a friend who is a doctor in Philadelphia, stated that she and her colleagues have been using bleach to re-wash their masks.”
“Here’s what we’ll do until the shortage is over,” he continued.
“We will convert the Pyer Moss office in NYC to a donation center for these items. We will use recommended hygiene and social distancing practices to receive and re-distribute these items directly to medical professionals on an as needed basis.”
The spread of COVID-19 has come hard and fast, and with cases increasing, doctors, nurses, and hospital aids are making due with the supplies they have on hand. “Interviews with ten emergency-room doctors and hospital managers around the country tell of colleagues and peers taking extensive measures to conserve fast-dwindling protective equipment, particularly the most potent N95 protective masks, as well as eye protection, gowns and gloves,” said a Bloomberg report. And to combat this scarcity, Jean-Raymond has formed a network called Your Friends in New York, and set aside $50,000 “to obtain these supplies” and distribute them accordingly.
The second Instagram post communicates the dire circumstances that COVID-19 has on small businesses. Indeed, with social distancing and self-quarantine actively encouraged by health organizations, along with local and federal authorities, bustling commerce is at a minimum. Big corporations, to be sure, have the infrastructure and capital to weather the storm, but independent firms, who often operate on a short-term basis, are being hit hard—so much so that they may have to fold altogether.
“Bigger brands have their hands in all sorts of places,” said Batsheva Hay to WWD. “If you are a smaller brand and take a hit for a year, you might not be able to survive, so the question becomes whether to shut down and wait it out. But you don’t want to ruin your reputation and not make good on all these orders.”
Jean-Raymond, who pilots a small business himself, fully comprehends the gravity of the situation. He is also the creative director Reebok, so he seemingly has the resources to buoy this economic downturn. Others don’t, which is why he is aiming to provide funds to those who need it.
“For our friends with independent businesses.
“We are setting aside $50,000 for minority and women owned small creative businesses who are currently in distress,” his message read.
“If you cannot make payroll or cannot cover pressing costs to keep your business afloat, please reach out, let us know what you do and how we can help.”
The coronavirus has disrupted the lives of everyone, which has led many to adopt a survivalist mentality. But it is important to consider the privilege many of us hold and often take for granted. Jean-Raymond evidently isn’t blinded by mass hysteria and has a laser focus on doing what he can to assist the less fortunate—the mark of a true leader.