The dawning of a new era for Supreme
As Tremaine Emory joins the brand as creative director, Sam Cole predicts what we can expect from the streetwear behemoth
Thursday 17 February 2022 By Sam Cole
A disruption of the status quo is a transition rarely made with ease, and fashion’s changing of the guard is no exception. Though, through the years and across seasons, we witness creative minds pivot and climb positions of authority; from the co-signed rumblings of inner circles to industry-certified esteem and prestige, shifting uncertainty on ‘radical’ appointments remains.
In the case of Tremaine Emory taking the reins as Supreme’s creative director, uncertainty is displaced; in its place, a warmth of reassurance, a strong stride in the right direction for one of the industry’s biggest cultural powerhouses.
Despite Supreme’s dominance of streetwear across cultures, throughout its 28-year history, the past half-decade has been riddled with uncertainty, perhaps raising more questions than in the decades preceding them. From the expiration of Angelo Baque’s 10-year tenure as brand director in 2017 to the brand’s acquisition by the VF Corp in late 2020, its forward direction left in a shroud of mystery.
Thanks to the unanswered questions and anxiety of change that comes with acquisitions, especially when a generationally adored entity is at the heart of it, Supreme’s fans have waited with bated breath for an indication of what real change could and would look like.
Following a year-long silence, fan guesswork has been put to bed with the news of Emory’s appointment, offering the breath of fresh air for which we’ve longed – a bold statement to make, but not one without merit.
Accepted, celebrated and championed by industry-wide leaders, Emory has earnt his stripes and never faltered from the line. From No Vacancy Inn to close creative relationships with Stüssy, Ye, Virgil Abloh, and a rich line-up of contemporary menswear collaborators through Denim Tears, his portfolio of work is far from lacking.
If experience and a proven track record with revitalising brands with a unique edge is enough to warrant the trust required of the position, there can be no doubts he’s the right man for the job. When handling the reins of a beast with the size and legacy of Supreme, however, a deep understanding of the wider cultural influence it begets is essential.
Like Ye, Heron Preston and the late Abloh, Emory’s successes and elevating positioning are not the results of singular facets or simplistic brand-to-consumer relationships, but an innate immersion in and understanding of the culture that birthed them. A deep respect for streetwear, challenging the status quo, championing young talent, and being unapologetically true to their Blackness is what earnt these creators their space and authority; how they’ve pushed brands forward without sacrificing the core for which they’re loved.
In the words of Virgil Abloh in a 2019 piece for The New York Times: ‘Tremaine is drawing parallels with actual moments in culture that are 30, 40, 50 years deeper, and ultimately recontextualizing the black image. His clothing won’t simply be stuff for the closet.’
When considering this sentiment, the pairing of Emory and Supreme makes all the more sense. A brand globally recognised as a pioneering force in streetwear, steeped in history and attentively references the cultures in which it’s thrived, steered by a creative mind with a deep awareness of the people, moments and movements that shape culture, is surely destined for success.
Though the ether between VF Corp’s acquisition and Emory’s appointment felt muddy and thick with insular collaborations that tired quickly, Supreme’s future looks bright, renewed with a fresh perspective directed towards emerging talents and attention-worthy contexts, ready to reclaim its throne.
Perhaps this changing of the guard, carefully curated by James Jebbia, is not to settle the anxieties of fans lamenting for the days of festival-like scenes for Thursday drops, but to kick open the doors on a new era; bigger, better, and more considered than that before it.
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