The black designer’s list was long. It stretched back to last year with a solo talk on diversity and inclusion Amed had invited him to that turned into a panel discussion with other black designers and influencers at the last minute.
Jean-Raymond wrote on social media and the news site Medium that he had long given up such group discussions, in part because “they make us speak all together in the commonality of our blackness and force us to disagree on stages in public.”
He also referenced a “heated and problematic” salon conversation also sponsored by The Business of Fashion, but he offered no details. The designer’s last straw came Monday night in Paris, when a black gospel choir performed for a mostly white audience at the publication’s gala celebrating its annual special edition highlighting 500 people who have helped shape the industry. The evening was complete with Amed dancing along.
Ultimately, Jean-Raymond wrote on Medium, “that level of entitlement is the core issue. People feeling like they can buy or own whatever they want ... if that thing pertains to blackness. We are always up for sale.”
Under the Medium headline, “Business of Fashion is now 499,” Kerby took himself out of the running as one of BoF’s celebrated. He described how Amed had told him he would appear on one of three magazine covers for the special issue, only to be told after he had spent considerable time in phone calls and meetings with Amed working on the cover that the publication decided to go in a different direction.
Amed said on The Business of Fashion website that he was “deeply sorry” that he made Jean-Raymond “feel disrespected.” Jean-Raymond wasn’t the only gala guest angry about the choir. Shoe designer Aurora James and other designers, models and fashion influencers took to social media to protest.
“Aren’t (w)e supposed to be celebrating diversity? And inclusion? Not appropriation? We are at a fashion awards show,” James wrote on Instagram. “Fashion exploits more women of color than any other industry. Why is there a black gospel choir?”
In addition, Jean-Raymond said, Amed excluded him from those he thanked who “inspired” the issue on diversity and inclusion when he spoke at the gala. Designers at bigger brands were shouted out. “To have your brain picked for months,” Jean-Raymond wrote, and to be told that his work and talk at the “salon” inspired the evening only to be “excluded in favor of big brands who cut the check is insulting.”
He added: “Was the intent all along to milk people like me for insight into our community, repackage it and resell it back to larger corporations with no intent of making real change? Was the choir the change?”
Kerby featured a black choir at his New York Fashion Week show in September that was a tribute to black culture. Amed posted his apology Wednesday on The Business of Fashion site. “I am deeply sorry that I upset Kerby and have made him feel disrespected,” said Amed, the gay son of Muslim immigrants to Canada from Nairobi.
“While we may disagree in our opinions on the gala and the details of our exchanges over the past year, Kerby has my complete respect and I would appreciate the opportunity to sit down with him and learn more about his concerns and how we at BoF can do better, especially as we try to address important topics like inclusivity.”
Amed said he agreed with Jean-Raymond on several points, including how the fashion industry approaches inclusivity. “As Kerby points out, the fashion industry has often treated inclusivity as a trend, putting diverse faces in our ad campaigns, on our runways, on our magazine covers and, yes, at our parties because it’s cool and of the moment,” Amed wrote, “But I can assure you that this topic is not a trend for BoF.”