Unveiling Tremaine Emory's Denim Tears

Article published at: Feb 12, 2024 Article author: ShowCase LLC
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                    Flo Kohl/ Autre Magazine

Who Made Denim Tears?

Tremaine Emory, the founder of Denim Tears, established his brand to be more than a fashion statement — it serves as a powerful platform for societal reflection. Emory was born in Atlanta, Georgia. A few months after he was born his parents relocated to Jamaica, Queens, New York. His surroundings and experiences in New York City molded a distinctive viewpoint on significant public issues which he portrays in his garments.

This upbringing laid the foundation for the multifaceted creative he would evolve into. Leveraging his influence in the fashion and music industry to passionately articulate his beliefs about societal challenges and advocate for transformative change within the fashion landscape.

Emory's reflections on these issues are ingeniously embedded in the obscured meanings behind his creative designs.The cotton wreath symbol, a distinctive feature of Denim Tears, serves as a visual embodiment of the profound significance that underlies the brand and reflects Emory's ambitions for general influence. 

Emory has strategically positioned himself as a trailblazing leader. His aim is clear — to make an enduring impact on the cultural realm of fashion, fostering lasting transformation through innovation, contemplation, and an unwavering dedication to social progress.

LEVIS X DENIM TEARS: A Fusion of Fashion, History, and Social Consciousness

In February 2020, Denim Tears founded by Tremaine Emory, collaborated with Levi’s leaving an indelible mark on the fashion landscape. Tremaine Emory's style and unwavering vision led him to pitch a unique cotton wreath concept with a hidden meaning to Levi's in San Francisco. Inspired by Cara Walker and Joseph Campbell's "The Hero's Journey.” The Hero’s Journey is a universal narrative template featuring stages such as the Call to Adventure, Tests and Trials, and the Return with the Elixir. This collectively outlined the transformative journey of a hero facing challenges and growth. Emory's idea resonated with Levis, resulting in a collaboration that seamlessly merged Denim Tears' avant-garde vision with Levi's timeless denim heritage.

Embodying Change: Unveiling the Denim Tears Logo

Tremaine Emory (Denim tears founder) utilizes iconography in his design to further explore his persistent mission to raise awareness on social issues. Emory discussed the meaning of the cotton wreath and stated, "The cotton wreath, it's like a talisman for black people. Cotton Wreath is a call to return back to what built this country. We built this country while we were brought here, what that puts us through, what we're still going through. That's just one of the ways I use iconography to bring social awareness to systematic racism, paying homage to what black people have been through, and we're still here")(Emory, Tremaine. "Cotton Wreath - Interview." YouTube, uploaded by Levi's®, Feb 9, 2021, [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3atpv9Av-dk]).

The collaboration between Levi's and Denim Tears surpassed simple style. It evolved into a deep exploration of history and social awareness. Denim Tears skillfully integrated themes of slavery and racial oppression, turning each piece into a canvas for contemplation on societal issues. Emory's dedication to using fashion as a tool for shedding light on enduring problems was evident, giving rise to a collection that sparked meaningful dialogue. 

Tremaine Emory: Shaping the Denim Tears Vision

photo of Tremaine Emory, Virgil Abloh and YE

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Emory’s Journey: Crafting Connections & Changing the Culture

In 2006, Tremaine Emory embarked on his fashion journey landing a retail associate position at Marc Jacobs. Eventually, Emory was allotted a store manager role in London which led him to new opportunities. After he concluded his nine year tenure at Marc Jacobs, Emory ventured into diverse realms, notably serving as the art director at Stüssy and offering his expertise as a consultant to acclaimed artists such as Ye (Kanye West) and Frank Ocean.

Emory's collaborative synergy with Frank Ocean manifested in the creation of "No Vacancy Inn," an innovative collective spanning clothing and merchandise, podcasts, DJ sets, culinary experiences, art curation, literary endeavors, and more. Positioned at the intersection of culture and creativity, Emory's role at No Vacancy Inn not only fostered authentic connections but also forged meaningful relationships with influential figures like Virgil Abloh, A$AP Rocky, and numerous others. These connections would prove essential, creating a pathway for Emory to pursue numerous opportunities that surpass traditional boundaries.

Exploring Tremaine Emory's History with Supreme and James Jebbia

In February 2022, Emory accepted the role of Creative Director at Supreme. His appointment as the first creative director at Supreme marked a significant milestone, considering his enduring relationship with James Jebbia. His and Jebbia’s relationship initiated at Union NYC where he would learn about fashion, honing skills that ultimately paved the way for his current position.

During Emory's time at Supreme, he highlighted the lack of promised cultural diversity in the company, particularly in leadership roles where there were no minority C-suite employees. This discrepancy played a significant role in Emory's departure from Supreme. Additionally, a collaboration Emory set in place between artist Jafa was pulled without notice to him. The collaboration depicted unsettling imagery of black men being hanged and Gordon, a free slave, with whip lashes on his back.

The departure was influenced by Emory's desire for creative control, which clashed with Jebbia's reluctance. His tenure at Supreme lasted only a year and a half, Emory pointed out ongoing issues of systematic racism and misogyny within the company. Emory emphasized that Supreme profits from black culture while not allowing him the creative influence he sought.Emory longed for a redirection of attention towards Black models and Black art in an industry largely dominated by white influence, emphasizing the need to shift from a scenario where non-minorities disproportionately profit from their contributions, style, and likeliness. 

According to Tremaine Emory, in an interview with the Toure show, he commented on Supreme, stating, "Supreme profiting off of black trauma, all this stuff. Valid points, great discourse to have, you know what I mean? and there's no right or wrong in my opinion. It's and and and, not and or or" (Emory, Tremaine. Interview with the Toure show. YouTube, uploaded by DCP Entertainment, Sep 29, 2023, [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FpcTksRar4&t=389s]).

Tremaine Emory's departure from Supreme, driven by issues of systematic racism and a lack of creative control, reflects his commitment to addressing imbalances in the fashion industry. His critique of Supreme's exploitation of black culture without empowering minority creatives sparks a vital discourse on the need for genuine diversity and equitable representation. Advocating for a redirection of attention towards Black models and art, Emory underscores the imperative to shift away from a paradigm where non-minorities disproportionately profit from Black contributions in the industry.

Unraveling Layers: The Symbolism of Denim Tears

Tremaine emory photo

                        Laurent Viteur/Getty Images

Beyond a mere fashion brand, Denim Tears, represents a fusion of cultural richness and socio-political awareness. The name "Denim Tears”, symbolizes unnoticed struggles within society, with each design addressing modern-day issues. The brand transforms fashion into a visual discourse on societal challenges, challenging audiences to confront uncomfortable truths.

Tremaine Emory & Virgil Abloh: An Alliance Redefining Fashion and Culture

Emory intentionally weaves themes addressing enduring struggles into his designs, turning Denim Tears into a conscious choice to engage with stories that matter. The brand goes beyond aesthetics, making a lasting impact by encouraging reflection on societal issues. The brand’s name came to fruition with Virgil Abloh and Acyde making a joke that it looked like the ripped denim was crying, then Tremaine encapsulated the joke and labeled “Denim Tears” as the name for his brand.

Tremaine Emory, founder of Denim Tears, explained the origin of the name: ‘“Originally it was a joke, a nickname. But then it took on that new meaning. Denim Tears also started meaning to me tears like rips, attrition about life. My grandma is 93, she has wrinkles, false teeth, you can see the veins in her hands, she walks slower, she’s a little hunched, but all that’s beautiful to me. That attrition of life has made that woman smart and funny.'" (Source: The Face - Denim Tears, Words: Craig McLean, Published: January 24, 2020).

Emory's vision for his brand is synonymous with Virgil Abloh's personal touch. Virgil Abloh gifted Emory a pair of Air Jordan 1 Off-White Chicago with Virgil's signature writing of “Mom Smiles” on his pair. The significance of this is endearing after Emory’s mom’s passing in 2015. This action intertwines his mentor’s relationship, adding a deeply personal element to Abloh's creation which extended beyond a business partnership or friendship. The influence of beliefs and personal touch to each item is noted by the work that he had conducted with Ye and Virgil Abloh. With both of his mentors taking stands, making them become leaders in the fashion industry.Ye and Virgil both impacted the fashion sector, with achievements that will be unsurpassed for many years to come.

Emory touches on his relationship with Virgil Abloh, and how he remembers Virgil, in an interview with the Toure show. He mentioned his friendship with Virgil Abloh, stating, "I fall in love and hang out with people that remind me of Tracy and Shirlyn, those are my parents, and their main mantra was compassion and kindness and you know V talked about that a lot" (Emory, Tremaine. Interview with the Toure show. YouTube, uploaded by DCP Entertainment, Sep 29, 2023, [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FpcTksRar4&t=389s]). 

Emory's Denim Tears transcends aesthetics, intertwining societal struggles into its designs for a lasting impact. The brand's name, originating as a joke with Virgil Abloh and Acyde, transforms into a profound symbol reflecting life's attrition. Emory's vision aligns with Abloh's personal touch, evident in his creations.

Denim Tears: A Manifesto for Social Transformation

Beyond the realm of stylish garments and innovative collaborations, Tremaine Emory's mission with Denim Tears transcends the traditional confines of fashion, becoming a powerful manifesto for social change. It serves as a compelling call, urging individuals to reflect on the pervasive challenges within our society, challenging norms and fostering meaningful conversations on uncomfortable truths. 

Guided by Emory's unwavering vision, Denim Tears emerges not just as a clothing brand but as a dynamic platform for dialogue and change, disrupting the fashion landscape with a deliberate and conscious choice to engage with narratives that hold profound societal impact. The cotton wreath insignia, inspired by Emory's upbringing and heritage, symbolizes more than just a fashion statement – it encapsulates a talisman for Black people, a call to return to roots, and a poignant reminder of the enduring struggles that built the nation.

Under Emory's leadership, Denim Tears became a symbol of cultural awareness, resonating beyond the confines of the runway and fostering conversations about the complexities of fashion and the issues rooted from it. Rooted in Emory's overarching vision, the brand's commitment to culture goes beyond garments, with each piece becoming a narrative of change, encapsulating values and cultural essence intrinsic to Emory's journey. The profound connection to history pays homage to ancestors who endured the brutal journey of slavery, sparking conversations that echo with contemporary societal issues.

Denim Tears stands not just as a brand but as a testament to Emory's dedication, utilizing fashion as a potent vehicle for meaningful dialogue, societal impact, and a catalyst for genuine transformation.In weaving themes addressing enduring struggles into his designs, Emory transforms Denim Tears into a conscious choice to engage with stories that matter. It is more than aesthetics; it is a call to reflect, challenge, and reshape societal narratives. Emory's creations add another layer to this narrative, emphasizing the need for creative control and representation within the industry.

Showcase is proud to carry the latest Denim Tears Capsule!