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 their partnerships, designs and overall brand ethos with a little more streamlined direction by hiring their 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 frustration after a failed collaboration with artist Arthur Jafa forced him to resign.
Emory went into extensive detail behind his reasoning for the split, and it appears the issue derives from Supreme execs allegedly cancelling 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 that needs a reminder, this is the image in question:
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 for 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?
See what many fashionable folk 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:
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End Of An Era? Supreme’s First-Ever Creative Director Exits Due To “Systematic Racism” was originally published on blackamericaweb.com
1. Tremaine Emory: “I wanna put images of Black slaves being hung on a t-shirt.” Supreme:
2. slave imagery is lame anyway, anyone whose big idea is “black people in chains” should be fired
3. I don’t know why Tremaine Emory thinks printing images of lynched slaves on Supreme tees is radical statement against systematic racism, but we are NOT on his side with this one.
4. Tremaine Emory thought he can print black ppl getting lynched and tag a supreme logo on it
5. the idea of a bunch of white kids lining up to buy a t-shirt with the image of a black man being hung is kind of crazy tbh
6. so…tremaine emory is mad that supreme stopped him from putting images of slaves being hung and whipped on some t-shirts, so he resigned and called racism ?
7. Tremaine Emory endorsing this dogshit ‘white fragility’ book that aims to forever victimise black people and reduces complex corporate interactions to binary race issues just because Supreme cancelled a collab he was working on is very disappointing, smh.
8. tremaine emory just gives me fake deep.
9. “Who cooked on the lynching BOGO?” “I had it in my cart but couldnt check out in time, i copped the Emmitt Till hoodie instead”
10. Tremaine Emory seems like a thoughtful guy on some level but he also made a hat that says late capitalism on it. His postmodern street wear has always read a little bit surface level and tbh this jafa collab sounded like more of the same but with new levels of ethical concern
11. Re: Tremaine Emory x Supreme — I love Arthur Jafa, but why would you select artwork depicting hung slaves and that infamous pic of Gordon & his lashings for a white brand that mostly is marketed to white kids?
12. Tremaine Emory wanted to flood Supreme with cotton picking imagery and got told no
13. Tremaine Emory wanting to do that bs in Supreme is crazy knowing he was put in a position of fashion just like his mentor and squandered it just like that
14. seriously, has anyone asked Mr. Tremaine Emory what he thought was gonna happen when the collab released and a bunch of yt boys had shirts on with slaves on them?? is he well?
15. Tremaine Emory needs to let go of his ego and admit that he was doing too much. You can’t expect a $1B corporation to sell clothing that has such offensive and graphic material. The brand would’ve been in a massive PR crisis. And their customers would’ve been bullied.