It's appropriate that Denim Tears' biggest drop to date is, arguably, its remixed Levi's jeans. The repurposed denim, printed or stitched with puffy cotton wreath shapes, has been a smash hit since its launch in January 2020, and it's only just now seeing re-release to commemorate a very special occasion.
See, Denim Tears is going to be part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's In America exhibit when it opens its doors on September 18.
The exhibit celebrates 100 years of American fashion by setting the stage for various designers in possession of a distinct perspective on what it means to be — and dress — American today, including Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Andre Walker, Bode, Dapper Dan, Rick Owens, Savage x Fenty, and Off-White™, to name a few.
Tremaine Emory, Denim Tears' founder, is an especially worthy selection.
"The curators of the Costume Institute emailed me about including the chain-stitched [Denim Tears Levi's jeans and jacket] and Tyson Beckford Sweater," Emory explained to Highsnobiety. "I told them that I was gonna write, or at least guide, the copy they're attaching to them," to maintain ownership of the Denim Tears narrative.
What makes Denim Tears' bespoke Levi's ($295) so desirable? Celeb co-signs, partially, but also the inimitable appeal of a well-worn pair of reliable jeans. Each is individually sourced from Levi's Vintage Archive, a massive collection of aged denim garments, inspected, washed, repaired, and finally graced by the cotton wreath print, which is applied by hand in Los Angeles. Oh, and all the jeans are made in America between the '80s and '90s.
"The most common misreading [of my work] is that I'm selling Black trauma," Emory continued. "When, really, I'm telling stories. The pain is a story, the good is a story. You don't even have to buy any of this to participate. You can learn about my jeans or google 'slavery' and listen to the 1619 podcast. Either way works for me, that's the whole point of it."
"I'm not selling trauma, I'm using consumerism to get a story out. Very different thing."
This September 11 activation — which Emory calls a "celebration" of his inclusion in The Met — at hip vintage boutique PROCELL also includes some limited denim hats ($45), thematic T-shirts ($55), and another round of Denim Tears' Tyson Beckford Sweater ($275), a riff on the iconic Black male model's all-American Polo campaigns and Ralph's flag-laden sweaters. The chunky knits prominently feature an iteration of the American flag inspired by Marcus Garvey's Pan-African flag, complete with a stitched "DT" in place of obvious branding.
"I've been doing a charity thing with PROCELL for the past four years," said Emory. "PROCELL is, like, one of those little vignettes of the New York I love and it just feels good to be here. It feels less gentrified than what's happening in Soho. There's some grit here!"
Both the jeans — an American-made collab with the quintessential American denim brand — and the sweaters speak to Emory's skill for filtering Americana tropes through his distinctly stylish lens, as does his work for Stüssy.
The Met exhibit is well-deserved, reaffirming Emory's place in the pantheon of designers with something to say about the American experience. It's about time that the country started listening.
PROCELL 5 Delancey Street New York, NY 10002