Since 1994, streetwear stalwart Supreme has done its due diligence to rise from being seen as a simple NYC-based skate brand to becoming a global phenomenon with collaborative ties to Nike, The North Face and high-end fashion house Louis Vuitton, just to name a few.
In February 2022, the label decided to hone in on its partnerships, designs and overall brand ethos with a little more streamlined direction by hiring its first-ever creative director, Tremaine Emory. Coming from the “camp of Kanye” along with fashion heavyweights Jerry Lorenzo (Fear Of God), Don Crawley (Just Don) and the late Virgil Abloh (OFF-WHITE), Emory had previously served as Ye’s brand consultant before leaving in 2018 to start his own now-popular label, Denim Tears, which eventually led to a feud with the Yeezus rapper.
Now it appears Emory is directing grievances towards his head honchos in fashion once again, this time with Supreme being the receiver of his frustrations after a failed collaboration with artist Arthur Jafa forced him to resign, he said.
Emory went into extensive detail behind his reasoning for the split, and it appears the issue derives from Supreme execs allegedly canceling the aforementioned collab with Jafa without adequately informing their creative director. The designs that were reportedly set to be included in the capsule collection featured images of Black people being lynched in addition to the infamous 1863 photo of “Whipped Peter.”
You can read Tremaine Emory’s full statement below, via Instagram:
“So over the last few weeks after resigning I fought tooth and nail into the 25th hour with c suite of supreme to align with them on a statement to the press explaining that l left supreme because of systemic racial issues the company has from the treatment of the arthur jafa collab to the make up of the design studio that has less than 10% minorities working when the brand is largely based off black culture ask @juliencahn @kyledem and Alex detrich…they were all on the text messages and kyle was on the calls until I told him I can’t align on a statement that doesn’t cite systemic racism and was asked to tell complex a racist incident didn’t happen and if they report that we can’t put out a statement with you because that will be the story( I refused to)…kyle said we will call you back on Tuesday night and y’all never did so it’s tragically ironic y’all three left me ‘hanging’ @kyledem on that call you said we want you to tell your story with us ‘ your the best story teller I know’ well y’all gonna get a story…
So the Tuesday after i resigned james jebbia pulled up to my crib ( the text above was sent by him after leaving my crib) and we talked about why i resigned. the head of hr was there and a woman from vf was listening in on zoom. James admitted he should have talked to me about cancelling images from the jafa collab because one of the few black employees( who ironically has quit supreme before I did partially because of his treatment due to systemic issues by the supreme…his words not mine) in the design studio didn’t think that we should be putting out this collab because of the depiction of black men being hung and the freed slave gordon pictured with his whip lashes on his back. James agreed there should have been discourse about the project with me being that I was the creative director and I’m black. Supremes statement in the @bof article is a lie to hide the systemic racism that lies deep within supreme and almost all white Owned corporations. I wanted to work with supreme to change these things and instead I told I was racially charged, emotional, and using the wrong forum by bring up systemic racism in a meeting when I was asked if we should work with a black female artist whilst this jafa project was secretly shutdown without anyone talking to me. That’s why I resigned…james agreed with all of my points and said he’s gonna change supreme…he’s gotta stand on what he said to me and the whole c suite and head of design gotta stand on what was said @erin_mademe @kyledem @juliencahn @electromagnetic_studios etc…I got a full clip of receipts plus you can just talk to the other few Ppl of Color that work in the design studio about they’re experience as it is a valid as mine I just have a platform to speak that most people of Color in America don’t have…” [sic]
For anyone who needs a reminder, this is the image in question:
like no disrespect to arthur jafa and tremaine but if “systemic racial issues” prevented people from walking around downtown with this on a t-shirt, we gotta call it a win pic.twitter.com/FnC0vG2aCp
— Jared Ray Johnson (@yungpanko) August 31, 2023
Adding on to what the X user who reposted the scathing image said, envisioning young skaters from all races — Black, white, Asian, Latino, etc — rocking a T-shirt with an enslaved man on it can definitely be quite unsettling for many. Even worse, resellers who will surely hike up the price to triple its retail value could also spark conversations on racial appropriation for the sake of profit.
Then there’s the “systematic racism” claim against Supreme, which the label addressed in their own statement to Business Of Fashion that says, “While we take these concerns seriously, we strongly disagree with Tremaine’s characterisation [sic] of our company and the handling of the Arthur Jafa project, which has not been cancelled.” Supreme went on to add, “This was the first time in 30 years where the company brought in a creative director. We are disappointed it did not work out with Tremaine and wish him the best of luck going forward.” The brand, which ironically enough got its name from Black jazz legend John Coltrane’s classic album, A Love Supreme, has released an ample amount of collaborations that not only feature popular Black subjects specifically but also simultaneously celebrate what makes them great — soul icon Sade, the Harlem hip-hop heavyweights of Dipset, iconic artworks by late art tycoon Jean-Michel Basquiat and reggae legend Buju Banton are just a handful of melanated examples.
Although putting Black faces on T-shirts doesn’t automatically disqualify an organization from being racist, it’s hard for us to fully stand behind Emory’s generalization of Supreme after working with them for only two seasons. His overall intentions are also brought into question when considering he told Complex last year that he and his Team Ye compadres “used” Louis Vuitton in order to “push through” the barriers of even becoming the creative director at Supreme. Could his current beef with ‘Preme be just another attempt at achieving leverage, this time for Denim Tears?
Scroll down to see what fashionable folks are saying about the situation on social media and let us know if you’re siding with Tremaine Emory or Supreme in this latest race debate.
1. Tremaine Emory Quit Supreme Over Whipped Slave Image
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