Tremaine Emory describes his streetwear label Denim Tears as African-American sportswear. But it’s a brand for all cultures driven by Emory’s desire to educate, empower and unite anyone and everyone open to learning more about the plight of Black people and the Black American experience. Essentially, Denim Tears is the celebration of the African-American community.
As a start to the year, Emory’s Denim Tears and Levi’s got together for a collaboration focusing on the story of cotton in America and how its history is intertwined with the legacy of slavery. Pieces from the range including a jacket, jeans and hat were printed with cotton wreath motifs found on artist Kara Walker’s Instagram. Additionally, a campaign video shot by Emory’s father in Harlem, Georgia accompanied the drop — it featured Tremaine’s grandmothers discussing their experiences as African Americans.
When racial tensions in the U.S. hit a boiling point due to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, Emory was collaborating with Converse. He also urged Nike (Converse’s parent company) to do more than just donate money to fight systemic racism. As a result, Emory and Converse tapped artist Hank Willis Thomas’ organization For Freedoms for some graphic works surrounding Emory’s shoe release. The partnership delivered uplifting and educational imagery to encourage the Black community to vote on election day.
As for the collaborative Converse sneaker, the classic Chuck 70 became the model of choice. Emory designed the pair with red, black and green — the colors of Marcus Garvey’s Pan-African Flag. However, the actual stars and stripes printed on the shoe came from artist David Hammons’ African-American Flag work which is also inspired by Garvey’s design. At its core, the shoe along with its colors and flag motif symbolize "bloodshed of justice seekers, the Black race and African land," respectively, as Emory explains.