Tremaine Emory Leaves Supreme, Alleges ‘Systemic Racism’

Just over 18 months into his tenure as the first creative director for Supreme, Tremaine Emory has parted ways with the company, accusing the corporation of “systemic racism” and mishandling a planned cooperation with award-winning artist and filmmaker Arthur Jafa.

In an Instagram post Thursday morning, Emory said he sought to work with officials to produce an aligned statement about his departure. Still, they didn’t want him to name “systemic racism” as the reason for leaving and instead asked him to deny that a racist incident occurred. Emory’s tirade began with an image of Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 book White Fragility, drawing connections between the New York Times bestseller and the Supreme the environment.

“So before I get into what I have been forced to speak on in these next few posts about @supremenewyork, I’m recommending y’all read this book for a better understanding of what systemic racism is and how it affects people of all Color who live in this white male patriarchal system that was built to only benefit white heterosexual males since the inception of America and even further back into European colonialism,” he captioned his post.

Emory suddenly left the position just two weeks after the New York-based label unveiled some of its upcoming Fall/Winter 2023 collection. Emory said that Supreme employs “less than 10% minorities,” sharing a message from Complex Style. The Denim Tears founder also mentioned Supreme execs Julien Cahn and Kyle Demers, implying he was having problems with them behind the scenes.

Emory provided another update in a second post, stating that Supreme founder James Jebbia promptly met with him after the news broke to discuss the resignation. According to Emory, Jebbia “admitted” that he should have contacted Emory about canceling the Jafa collab pictures, even though they portrayed “Black men being hung” and the once enslaved Gordon, also known as “Whipped Peter.”

After taking over the role in February of 2022, Emory inserted his worldview into the streetwear brand. Emory’s work from the Spring/Summer 2023 collection, the first under his watch, included doo-rags in collaboration with Coogi and multiple pieces featuring Pan-African flag colors. 

In October of the same year, the Jamaica, Queens-bred designer suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which left him hospitalized for two months. While rehabbing from the health scare, Emory spoke on his recovery on the Started From The Bottom podcast. He detailed how he needed to rebuild muscle in his legs while trying to “wake up” the nerves.

In an interview with Just Smile Magazine, Emory described his time going outside after the aneurysm as “being born again.” Supreme never issued a public statement addressing the life-threatening ordeal. In the interview, he spoke about maintaining one’s identity over pursuing corporate validation.

“If you seek their validation because so and so made you creative director, you’re losing. In fact, you’vready lost. But if you seek validation, firstly, in yourself and secondly, in the community that you care about and who cares about you, you’ve got a chance to live a life without regrets,” he said.

On Aug. 24, Emory celebrated the fourth year of his own brand Denim Tears, with an Instagram post featuring a man crip walking on Confederate flags.

Supreme replied in a statement to Business of Fashion that it “strongly” disagrees with “Tremaine’s characterization” of the company and the Arthur Jafa collaboration, which the brand added “has not been canceled.”

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