Niyah Kerr of Le Meux

Brooklyn's Niyah Kerr breaks down the GREY AREA and what it takes to make Le Meux the best in fashion.

Where are you from?

“I’m from Brooklyn, NY - East Flatbush, borderline, Canarsie. A little bit more about my background as far as fashion - I started in retail. My first job was at David Z. and that’s how I met [fashion photographer] Sean Quincy (Monroe). I met him way back then before he even picked up the camera. After That, I worked at Kith and a bunch of other boutiques. 

 I started making my clothes after Kith started their line and the manufacturer would come into the store. It was hands-on - a small team at first. Naturally, I started speaking with [the manufacturer] more in the store. One day I inquired, ‘If I wanted to make a t-shirt, what would that process be like?’ 

Speaking with him, I went on to make my first sample. I found out later that [he] was just a middle-man. What he was doing was going to the garment district to get t-shirts done. Once I found out about the garment district, my mind was opened up to a new world. That progression turned into me making things for myself and my friends.”

What was your upbringing like with your first encounters with fashion?

 “My parents are Jamaican. I’ve always had the younger parents of all my friends. [My parents] were into [stuff.] I had - Jordans, and [other stuff]. 

 It was my mom! I could remember as far back as elementary school, the Air Max Tuned Airs were coming out, and us driving to Staten Island to make sure I got ‘that’ colorway that came out. It was a classmate's birthday and she would want me in ‘the latest.’ Tommy, Polo, even Iceberg, and Diesel, - S&D Underground [retail store] - I remember going there. 

 In High School, I started working for my Grandfather - just on the weekend so I could have some money. He has his own refrigerating and plumbing company. What led me to start working to buy my own clothes is because I grew out of kids' sizes. And the Jordans were not $65 anymore. They were $75! I felt wrong going to my grandmother, going to my mom asking for ‘a buck 25, a buck 50’ to buy some sneakers. ‘Let me get a job and start working with my grandfather and start earning some extra money.’

 That’s when I started buying my own stuff. I was super into it to a point I never used to ‘cop’ on the release dates. We have [local stores like] Ragga Muffin(s), and GetSet(s), and we used to pay them a little extra to get pairs early. I used to think it was ‘wack’ to ‘cop’ on release dates. I needed it first! 

 Later on, in high school is when I got into streetwear. Actually through NikeTalk. I was there getting introduced to different brands through the forums. People posting things, and I’m like, ‘what is that?’ As a kid I was always into sneakers, my mom and dad had me in the latest, but then I realized there is a whole other world. I know of the ‘mom and pop’ Air Forces and Jordans, but I didn’t know ‘this’ color came out in Japan. These only dropped in London. That was an eye-opener when I got into streetwear.”


What were you doing before launching Le Meux?

“In 2014, after I stopped working for Kith, I started working for different companies, trying my hand in a creative direction. I ended up at the old Marc Ecko building off of tenth - the DHL building. I was assisting the creative director of SlowBucks. It was called The Collective, an umbrella company, and they ran the production for apparel companies like Lemar and Dauley, SlowBucks, 40 oz., and they did some things for BBC [Billionaire Boys Club]. 

 This is where I gained more knowledge on fabrication. Learning how fabrics lay. The trouble I was running into while I was trying to make several was that I didn’t know about fabrication and weight. I wanted to make a t-shirt and I would grab the material and make a t-shirt. And then it was like, ‘this doesn’t feel like a t-shirt.’

 From there I was able to learn fabrication, weight, drapery, and all of that. In 2017, that is when I released my first Le Meux collection; 2 t-shirts, a hoodie, and sweatpants. My thing is really cut and sewn. That’s my intent and my interest. Printables are secondary, and knowing the business and studying fashion, I see how others did it. 

For example; Virgil [Abloh] with Pyrex, or a high-end brand like Rodarte. Rodarte does evening dresses, but what they are known for is their logo t-shirts. I took that as, sometimes you have to go with the printable route, to get your money up and your name out there to do what you really want to do. 

 Virgil’s end goal was to create Off-White, that’s why he did Pyrex and Been Trill. It’s not what he really wanted to do, that was an outlet to get the funds up. The same thing for Rodarte, their printables which sold the most for them is how they are able to do couture dresses. 

 I took that business mindset, and did some printables to get my name out, and have enough money to invest in doing the cut and sewn pieces I’d really like to make.” 

How did you land on the name Le Meux?

 “When I first started Le Meux, it was me and a partner who is no longer a part of the company. We were going through names - we had ideas but didn’t have a name for them. He came to me with ‘L E M I E U X’ [actual spelling] and that’s a French term that translates to ‘the best.’ When he first brought it to me, although I liked the name, I didn’t like the ‘i’ in it. And I didn't like that it translated to the best, I thought it was kind of corny. But I liked how it looked. So I took out the ‘i.’ It's a name that stuck and I like how it flows. It’s up to me to create what the meaning is.” 

Describe "selfish design"?

 “That is something that still sticks with the brand. When I say ‘selfish design’ - most brands design from the standpoint of what they think consumers would want - I took the opposite approach. I’m thinking about it like, ‘Would I appreciate this? Would my friends appreciate this? From that perspective, I’ve seen it benefits the consumer the most - in the long run. I only want to create the best things for me to wear - designing from that standpoint.”

 Elaborate on what you refer to as the GREY AREA?

“Grey is my favorite color; like heather grey t-shirts. For a long time, I had a thing about that. Grey in itself, what the color means - the combination of Black and white - I feel like is very powerful. I consider myself a very black-and-white person. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. But, I’ve come to understand that it’s not always that cut and dry. It’s more about perspective. 

 You could talk about any topic and it would boil down to perspectives. How you view it if it’s right or wrong. Through conversations and experiences that I’ve gone through, it opened my eyes up to the Grey Areas in the world and most things exist in the Grey Area. That was really the inspiration behind the collection.

 The idea came first then the logo. Thinking about how I can communicate that. The way I processed it was through a Venn diagram of those two things; [black and white].”

What inspired your taste for fashion?

“When I think about fashion and the things that inspired me were like high school. I do remember what Kanye, or Pharrell, did for me. When I was introduced to NikeTalk and Japan’s culture and how they interpreted American fashion and their appreciation of it. And working in the city [Manhattan], having foreign customers come in and seeing their sense of fashion. The most high-end, luxury, and opulent [fashion]. 

And also, the ‘homies’ on ‘the block.’ The inspirations are all of that in one. In my collection, you’ll find a sweatpant, but you’ll also find a knitted jacket with silk lining. The dude that’s on the corner with the Air Forces and the sweatpants, is just as fly to me as the dude from Paris.”

Does fashion have to make sense in your opinion and relation to sustainability?

“I think it’s definitely our responsibility to educate ourselves. At least try to take those steps as we’re learning. As I’m doing [Le Meux] I’m learning. In creating certain pieces and the waste that [comes out] of it. There is one thing I learned in creating the cargoes. 

 When you buy the material by the yard, the spool widths are different sizes. Sometimes when the sizes are too big, they just cut in the middle of the [fabric] and throw away the rest. Now I’ve been conscious enough to buy the right size so it goes immediately to the edge so I’m not wasting as much. Even down to the packages we use which are recycled plastic. 

 It's our place to educate and do the best that we can. I don't think we’re ever going to be perfect. We’re consumers at the end of the day. And I don’t think they're ever going to only wear vintage clothes. We have to find the medium. I will continue to utilize different strategies to become more sustainable.”

How do you define your style and your design aesthetic as it is translated to Le Meux?

“With all of my experiences and all of my influences, it’s hard to put into one word or define. I can say this; I am most comfortable when my outfit is ‘balanced.’ And a balanced outfit to me represents all of my influences. I love wearing a Saint Laurent Jacket, but with Air Forces. I feel like that symbolizes me. 

It shows you my influences and what I’m into. It encompasses me, opposed to, if I’m in all streetwear, or high-end it doesn’t represent me fully. When there is a mixture of that, a Prada t-shirt with a Nike hat encompasses everything. You see me, and you get it. I don't know what the word is for that.”


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