Tremaine Emory’s UGG Collab Highlights Hidden Black History
If you follow Tremaine Emory’s work, you’ll know there’s always a deeper meaning behind the aesthetics. Through his collaborations with Levi’s, Converse, ASCIS, Champion and now UGG, not to mention under his own Denim Tears moniker, the No Vacancy Inn co-founder and newly appointed Creative Director of Supreme has consistently used his creative work to explore overlooked aspects of Black history.
“Our story is rarely told in the media and, most importantly, in schools and in books,” Emory tells Highsnobiety over Zoom. “It’s not just talking about slavery — it’s about the glory of Black history too.”
“How many kids learn about Alvin Ailey in school? About the Trail of Tears? He continues. “About how America’s capitalism was built off the cotton trade? And that’s why America is a superpower and we’ve never received reparations for it. How often is that really taught?”
Unfortunately, we all know the answer to that question and that is why Emory’s practice is so important — the gaps that are left by the education system are being filled by him, one collection at a time.
Now, the designer has released a new collection with UGG that pays homage to his great-grandmother’s Black Seminole heritage and shines a light on the connection between Indigenous and African American communities.
Until recently, Emory himself didn’t know that much about Black Seminoles, a part of the Seminole Tribe of Florida with African heritage. The group can be traced back to free Black people and escaped slaves in 1700 merging with the Seminole Tribe — and fighting alongside them during the Seminole Wars. That changed, when during a recent trip to New Orleans, the designer visited the Backstreet Cultural Museum where he came across images of Black Seminoles.
From there, he started to deep dive into this personal history, “I’ll never know the specific details of my great grandmother’s life, but the more I learn, I definitely feel more connected,” he explains. During the process, he also discovered more about the connection between the Indigenous and Black communities, including new Orlean’s own “Mardi Gras Indians,” who evolved from a bond Black and Indigenous Americans shared in the 18th and 19th centuries in the South.
His collection with UGG brings all these threads together. As he puts it, the collaboration is “ putting things down that can’t be erased, so maybe ten more people know now that Indigenous and African American communities are actually way closer than we thought.”
Reinventing the UGG Classic Boot and the Tasman slipper, Emory covered both in intricate beading, drawing inspiration from both traditional African craftwork and classic First Nation designs. The collection reflects the shared connection between the two cultures and “harkens back to that mixture of First Nation embroidery and African beading, modernizing it and mixing it with UGG’s silhouettes,” Emory explains.
As part of the collection, UGG and Emory are donating $50,000 in total to the Backstreet Cultural Museum which was destroyed during Hurricane Ida, and the Guardians Institute which helped the designer with his research. Browse the collection above and shop it in full here.
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