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Levi’s x Denim Tears Tremaine Emory collaboration 2
Courtesy of Levi’s

The Denim Tears x Levi’s collab explores African American history

The four-piece capsule is inspired by Tremaine Emory’s family and the complex history of cotton in America

In the summer of 2019, Tremaine Emory, aka @denimtears, dropped his inaugural Denim Tears collection on the 400th anniversary of the day slavery began in America. Made up of hoodies, sweatshirts, and jeans bearing the label’s logo and delicate floral wreaths, the No Vacancy Inn co-founder explained that he wanted people to “feel the weight of the human condition and have empathy, compassion, and understanding for all cultures that have suffered the tyranny of slavery or any type of oppression throughout human history.” 

Now, the visionary creative is back, with a four-piece capsule collection designed in collaboration with Levi’s that looks to cotton and America’s complex history with the material.

“(The collection is) not so much about the clothing but what it represents: it’s about being black, from the South, African American,” Emory explains. “(My grandmothers) are still here, 93 years in America. Who better to help me tell this story than two black women from a small, one red light town in the South?” 

This time around, the offering includes t-shirts, a denim trucker jacket, and a reimagined pair of the brand’s signature 501s, with each style bearing unique cotton-inspired motifs and detailing.

Finishing off the collection is Emory’s favourite piece: a hand-stitched patchwork plantation hat bearing a cotton wreath inspired by an emblem he saw on artist Kara Walker’s Instagram (whose fountain “Fons Americanus” is currently the focal point of the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, FYI). To him, the wreath is a talisman, that represents the journey of the African American experience: “where we came from, where we haven’t gone, where we have gone. Some of the struggle and pain, and also, how we’ve perservered.”

Accompanying the collection is a multi-dimensional campaign, which includes a 40-minute film directed by Emory and his dad in his father’s hometown of Harlem, Georgia, in which he speaks to members of his family, including his grandmothers, about their experience with cotton-picking in America. 

Likewise, the campaign’s still images are also shot by his dad, who Emory cites as ‘an inspiration’. “He’s one of my biggest role models and teachers… He’s my Joseph Campbell, my Yoda. It’s great to have him direct the video about my collab with Levi’s and how it relates to African Americans and my family specifically feels like the truest expression of this story.” 

The Denim Tears x Levi’s collaboration will drop for Spring 2020.