Supreme’s new creative director stands on his own merit, but it’s impossible to ignore the impact of his friendship with the late Virgil Abloh.
Nov. 30, 2021, was supposed to be sad.
That Tuesday night in Miami, Louis Vuitton hosted its Spring/Summer 2022 runway show just two days after Virgil Abloh, the brand’s menswear artistic director, passed away from a private two-year battle with a rare form of heart cancer.
The show doubled as an impromptu vigil for Virgil. Abloh’s artistry was seldom somber and often colorful. Because of that, the tone was bold and upbeat despite overwhelming grief — illustrated by the Abloh-designed pieces worn by the models and the soundtrack they walked to. Early on, the sound of Pharrell screaming, “Gather ’round!” emanated from speakers through the courtyard.
It is the first line in “Momma I’m So Sorry,” the second song off The Clipse’s 2006 classic Hell Hath No Fury, and it blasted loud enough for boaters off Biscayne to hear. A head started bobbing in the audience. It was Tremaine Emory, who roughly seven years earlier had channeled the loss of his mother into “hanging and creating” with Abloh and Acyde.
But who is he, really?
Like most modern multi-hyphenates, it’s tough to put Emory in a box.
Raised in Queens, Emory has ascended in the fashion world because of hard work from humble beginnings. After loading trucks at FedEx and working retail at J. Crew, the tipping point in Tremaine’s trajectory came in 2006 when he went to work for Marc Jacobs. In hindsight, it was a sliding doors moment.
“I was supposed to meet with [Supreme founder] James Jebbia,” Emory revealed to host Jeff Staple during this episode of Business of HYPE in September 2019. “I really wanted a job at UNION [NYC]. It never happened, and I got a job at Marc Jacobs.”
Starting off in the stockroom, Emory’s journey with Jacobs was much different than his time at J. Crew.
“I had an interview with Marc Jacobs. He interviewed everyone for any position,” Emory continued to Staple. “That was the most lit fashion company in the world because every position was considered important because they hired personalities and people. You had all races and genders working at all positions, and it was totally mobile. So I went from being a stock guy to ending up as the assistant manager of the collection store in London.”
By 2010, the designer famous for bringing Kanye West — now known as Ye — to work with Louis Vuitton took Emory overseas. His Marc Jacobs tenure ended when he picked up consulting work with Stüssy and Frank Ocean while also forming the event collective No Vacancy Inn.
Between throwing No Vacancy parties with Acyde and art directing for Stüssy, Emory’s upbringing constantly served his progression. Always working, always inclusive, and always into art, the combination of curiosity and depth made his personality and output stand out.
Over the course of the 2010s, the rise of No Vacancy Inn placed Emory as the emcee for parties tied to Prada, GQ, Hugo Boss, GUESS, and more. Organic friendships with Abloh, Ye, A$AP Rocky, and Tom Sachs continued to propel the visibility and ventures of Emory’s events with No Vacancy Inn as well as the start of Denim Tears.
While the Queens kid couldn’t get a meeting with Jebbia in the early aughts, the two are in tandem today at another New York staple: Supreme.
Return to the Mecca
Thursday morning, Supreme broke Twitter and ignited chaos among group chats with the release of their coveted collaboration with Burberry.
Resale prices have raised the roof on the perceived value of each piece while commotion at Supreme stores has proven both viral and violent. (Not even Rich the Kid was exempt, as seen here.)
On Feb. 16, Emory made headlines as the new creative director at Supreme. As GQ UK noted at the time of his appointment, this is the first time Supreme has had a creative director since then-brand director Angelo Baque left in 2017.
Additionally, Emory is the first creative director to formally reign since Supreme sold to VF Corporation for $2.1 billion in late December 2020.
It’s tough to imagine anyone better fit for the job. As a native New Yorker, Emory has an authentic appreciation for the nuances that make Supreme so singular. He has lived through every evolution on the modern streetwear scene — and every evolution of Supreme.
What’s Next For Supreme?
Like Baque before him, Emory identifies as a storyteller.
Moreover, Tremaine’s love of literature and art, as well as his expansive interest in music, make sense to guide a streetwear label that is as loved for luxury collaborations as it is as an inflection point for discovery.
The amount of millennials and Gen Z kids introduced to Bad Brains, GZA, Public Enemy, and Lou Reed is just as immense as the number of kids Supreme inspired to start skateboarding.
Sonically, Supreme and Emory align amazingly based off their appreciation and understanding of all genres and catalogs. Where Emory may differ most from the stigmas associated with Supreme is his innate compassion and undeterred depth. Historically, Supreme proved notorious for cold customer service and stand-offish vibes.
Conversely, Emory is regarded for his kindness. It appears innate — exuding across traditional industry borders, regardless of status. He handles each professional task with the same energy he treats each individual he interacts with socially.
In recent years, hype and hysteria have blurred the lines on where Supreme stands when it comes to quality of product and straight-up trolling. Emory, on the other hand, is respected for his deep, nuanced messaging and careful craftsmanship with products.
In other words, Emory isn’t stuffy. His refreshingly warm demeanor has led to stand-out collaborations ranging from Off-White and Stüssy to Champion, Converse, and Ugg.
How Supreme changes under Emory’s direction remains to be seen, but striking a lavish collaboration with British royalty Burberry is a strong statement to start. It isn’t a coincidence that A$AP Nast (of New York’s A$AP Mob) specifically thanked Emory when previewing the collection last weekend.
Emory’s industry-wide respect speaks to the leadership ability he brings to Supreme, and the halo effect created by Abloh — in his multi-medium innovative genius and the success at both Louis Vuitton and Off-White echoing after his death.
“I have a bigger voice because of my friendship and working with V,” Emory told Staple in that 2019 interview.
And so, it’s a safe assumption that Emory saw himself in Abloh as much as anyone else mourning in Miami — and worldwide — months ago.
At Supreme, Emory will have his chance to make his mark on one of the most storied labels in modern fashion. Similar to Abloh’s lasting influence, Supreme’s story won’t end with Emory, but the work he begins now will be imprinted forever.