This past Tuesday, news broke out that Tremaine Emory stepped down as Supreme’s creative director after two seasons with the brand. This left many members of the community speculating as to what happened behind the scenes to cause this departure. Some believed Emory was leaving Supreme to focus on his own streetwear brand, Denim Tears, while one person claimed that he didn’t “step down,” but was actually let go.
A report from Business of Fashion published on Thursday provides a different perspective. A resignation letter written by Emory and viewed by BoF alleges that “systematic racism was at play within the structure of Supreme.” Going into specifics, one of Emory’s claims is that Supreme’s upper management displayed an “inability to communicate” about an allegedly cancelled collaboration with artist Arthur Jafa, with the brand not offering “full visibility for the reasons behind it.”
Hours following the report from BoF, Tremaine Emory took to Instagram to provide more insight in the departure. Emory’s post includes group text messages with Supreme’s upper management discussing the release of a shared statement about the resignation. According to the texts and the caption provided by Emory, a shared statement was not released due to Supreme’s upper management leaving him “hanging” and Emory’s refusal to not cite systemic racism in the statement. The designer also mentions how the design team is made up of “less than 10% minorities” when the brand is “largely based off black culture.”
Of course, Supreme has released its own separate statement. The streetwear giant told BoF: “While we take these concerns seriously, we strongly disagree with Tremaine’s characterisation of our company and the handling of the Arthur Jafa project, which has not been cancelled. 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.”
After the release of this statement, Emory shared a follow-up Instagram post calling Supreme’s statement a lie. “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,” writes Emory in the post. The designer mentions how images from the Arthur Jafa collaboration were scrapped because 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.”
Emory also includes discussions with Supreme founder James Jebbia in this follow-up, which seems to show that Jebbia agrees with Emory’s points. “James agreed there should have been discourse about the project with me being that I was the creative director and I’m black,” writes Emory.
Tremaine Emory’s Instagram post #1:
Tremaine Emory’s Instagram post #2: