This story was updated Aug. 31 at 7:32 p.m.
Tremaine Emory is stepping down as creative director of the VF Corp.-owned Supreme due to what he termed “systemic racial issues” at the brand.
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The fashion designer, who also runs his fashion label Denim Tears, revealed on his Instagram on Thursday that he is stepping down from his role at Supreme after joining the label in February 2022.
Emory stated that he resigned from his position a few weeks ago.
“So over the last few weeks after resigning, I fought tooth and nail into the 25th hour with the C-suite of Supreme to align with them on a statement to the press explaining that I 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 percent minorities working when the brand is largely based off Black culture,” Emory wrote in part on an Instagram post that showed a text message with multiple Supreme executives.
Emory went on to explain that he couldn’t align with the brand on a statement about his resignation that didn’t address the alleged systemic racism at the company and alleged that Supreme asked him to tell Complex that a racist incident within the company didn’t happen. He explained he was told that the Supreme executives would get back to him on the statement on Tuesday night, but that he hadn’t heard from them.
The designer also shared a text exchange he had with Supreme founder James Jebbia about a meeting they had about why Emory resigned from his role. In the text exchange, Jebbia wrote that Emory “opened [his] eyes to important issues that have to be addressed” at Supreme.
Emory’s caption for the Instagram post stated that Jebbia “admitted he should have talked to me about canceling images from the [Arthur] 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 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.”
He went on to state that he had joined Supreme to address systemic racism and initiate change within the company, but was told he was “racially charged, emotional and using the wrong forum by [bringing] up systemic racism.”
Emory ended the post with a call to action for Jebbia to address the issues at Supreme and stated he has a “full clip of receipts” about the company’s workplace culture.
Supreme issued a response to Emory’s allegations on Thursday, stating: “While we take these concerns seriously, we strongly disagree with Tremaine’s characterization of our company and the handling of the Arthur Jafa project, which has not been canceled. 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 designer was appointed as Supreme’s creative director more than a year after the streetwear brand was acquired by VF Corp. for $2.1 billion. The conglomerate has experienced losses since the acquisition, with the company taking a total of $735 million in charges in 2022 against its Supreme business. In the fourth quarter of 2022, VF Corp. recorded a net loss of $214.9 million.
Earlier this year, Emory spoke at the Fashion Tech Forum about his plans for Supreme, stating his goal was to carry on the brand’s New York City-centric viewpoint and continue to tell meaningful stories.
“My main thing is Supreme is a New York brand,” he said. “Denim Tears, the muse is the African diaspora. The muse for Supreme is New York. There are so many stories and feelings to draw from New York and also how New York has influenced the world and put it into clothing. I want to carry on tradition, but push it forward and keep making clothing that’s meaningful to young people, to subculture, to culture and people who care about quality, well-made clothing that comes from a brand that means something.”
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