Highsnobiety

Denim Tears' Arthur Jafa collaboration is a tangible culmination of founder Tremaine Emory's core principles. It's also a timely jab at Supreme, the decades-old streetwear brand that once employed Emory as creative director.

Emory's Denim Tears debuted its Arthur Jafa collab on Instagram a few days prior to its April 26 launch, publishing imagery of a red (as in Supreme Red) Rubik's Cube and blue hoodie both printed with all-caps "SYSTEMIC RACISM CONTROLS AMERICA" text.

The design language is nuanced, both direct enough to stand on its own weight and made extra potent by the layered references to Emory's abrupt departure from Supreme in late 2023.

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On that first point, you have the no-nonsense text that epitomizes the ideals shared by Emory and Arthur Jafa, a pioneering artist and "theorist of Black culture" who, like Emory, was famously close with the late Virgil Abloh.

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"SYSTEMIC RACISM CONTROLS AMERICA" is, itself, a true enough sentiment worthy of a place on a hoodie.

But, on the other hand, the font and design language is knowingly appropriated from Supreme, very purposely utilizing the same Futura Bold Oblique typeface that the skate label originally swiped from artist Barbara Kruger.

Denim Tears' purposeful stylistic turnaround is made extra pointed by four factors.

Firstly, the Jafa collab's design includes the exact language that Emory used when leaving Supreme: in a letter of resignation, he cited "systemic racial issues" as a core source of conflict.

Secondly, it parodies an archetypal Supreme slogan: "ILLEGAL BUSINESS CONTOLS AMERICA."

Next, according to Emory himself, Supreme founder James Jebbia had removed lynching imagery from a since-canceled Arthur Jafa x Supreme collaboration planned by Emory.

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That Denim Tears is working with the same artist is no coincidence.

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In a since-deleted Instagram post, Emory published apparent screenshots of texts sent by Jebbia wherein Supreme's founder appeared to acknowledge fault for not being more communicative to Emory.

Finally, and most subtly, Denim Tears announced its Jafa collaboration on April 22, 2024, the same day that Supreme began celebrating its 30th anniversary.

The provocation could be seen as the inevitable final stage of Emory's lingering Supreme-related grievances, which he has discussed openly in interviews and social media posts.

In an appearance on the Touré Show , for instance, Emory made it clear as to why he left Supreme.

"I didn't resign because of the [Arthur Jafa] images," he said. "I left because of [Supreme's] thoughtlessness and their lack of response when I was trying to garner discourse."

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Denim Tears' Arthur Jafa collaboration is, clearly, Emory aiming to do just that.

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