Tremaine Emory Says He Left Supreme ‘Because of Systemic Racial Issues' (UPDATE)

According to Emory, a pending collaboration with Arthur Jafa was at the center of his and Supreme's issues.

tremaine emory on red carpet
Image via Getty/Rob Kim
tremaine emory on red carpet

UPDATED 8/31, 10:40 a.m. ET: Tremaine Emory has now publicly addressed his exit from Supreme, as well as the alleged "systematic racism" at the heart of his decision to depart the label.

In Instagram posts on Thursday, the Denim Tears founder first shared a photo of Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 book White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, stating in the caption that he recommended everyone read the book "for a better understanding of what systemic racism is and how is affects people of all Color’s 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."

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In a subsequent update, Emory shared screenshots of text messages showing his efforts to align with Supreme on a joint statement about his departure.

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instagram screenshot
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Emory said he "fought tooth and nail into the 25th hour" to get such a statement settled. That statement, he said, would have explained that he "left Supreme because of systemic racial issues the company has," specifically when it came to an Arthur Jafa collaboration.

Furthermore, Emory said, he "was asked to tell Complex a racist incident didn't happen."

See more below.

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Emory later shared a text exchange he had with Supreme founder James Jebbia.

"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," Emory wrote in the post's caption. "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."

He continued, "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."

See original story below.

Tremaine Emory cited alleged “systematic racism” in his resignation letter to Supreme, according to a new report.

Business of Fashion reported on Thursday that it had seen a copy of the letter, news of which follows Complex first reporting that Emory was exiting his creative director role at the label.

Per BoF, Emory’s exit—which is now confirmed by Supreme, the new report states—was spurred by what the Denim Tears founder described as senior management’s “inability” to provide “full visibility” on the reasons behind the alleged cancelation of a pending collab with artist Arthur Jafa.

“This caused me a great amount of distress as well as the belief that systematic racism was at play within the structure of Supreme," Emory is reported to have said in his resignation letter.

In a statement provided to the outlet, Supreme said that it “strongly” disagrees with “Tremaine’s characterization” of both the company itself and the Arthur Jafa collab. The latter, the brand claimed, “has not been canceled.” The statement also saw the brand noting that this was its first time bringing in a creative director.

“We are disappointed it did not work out with Tremaine and wish him the best of luck going forward,” Supreme added.

Neither Supreme nor Tremaine Emory have publicly commented on the situation. Complex has reached out to Supreme for additional comment on the latest development. This story may be updated.

Earlier this week, Complex, citing sources, first reported that Supreme's Fall/Winter 2023 collection would be the final one under Emory. At the time, a reason for the creative director’s exit was not known.

Emory first stepped into the Supreme role in February 2022. Later that year, the prolific designer spoke with Complex's Mike DeStefano, connecting his appointment at Supreme to part of a larger artistic journey made possible by the late Virgil Abloh.

"Louis V wasn’t the whole thing. It was a step on the chessboard," he said at the time when asked about who would follow Abloh at Louis Vuitton (That role eventually went to Pharrell Williams). "The sun roof is off. We used Louis. We use these things as leverage to push through. For example, the sun roof off the Trojan horse is me getting a job at Supreme. Me and my job at Supreme doesn’t happen if the watershed moment with Virgil doesn’t happen in 2018. I don’t care how talented or good I am."

As for whether Supreme will be bringing in a new creative director in the wake of Emory's exit, no official statements have been made.

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