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Tremaine Emory is using fashion to resurrect the stories of his ancestors

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The Denim Tears designer’s latest creation was born from Georgia’s fertile and symbolic red clay landscapes

When Tremaine Emory was a child, his parents would ship him off to Harlem, Georgia, where he’d spend exhaustive summers with his grandmother “surrounded in red clay landscapes”. Over time, though, the terracotta soil which once enveloped the southeastern state has become increasingly sparse, covered over with drab pavestones and tarmac. What was once famously fertile – capable of growing dream gardens with fabled miraculous qualities – has become all but barren. And yet, it remains an abundant source of inspiration for Emory, whose latest creation, a rust-hued, dust-flecked sneaker, was born from Georgia’s red clay. 

From Windrush capsules, to Black Jesus collections, and Pan-African Converse, Emory’s label Denim Tears is all about storytelling, projecting his own personal memories and the nuances of the Black diaspora onto fashion’s mainstream. “The point is for people who don’t know the stories to be exposed to them,” he says, “you achieve nothing by preaching to the converted.” So, when lifelong friend and ex-Supreme director Angelo Baque connected Emory with ASICS, the Queens native found himself with a proverbial megaphone – that is, an ASICS GEL-MC Plus – to further amplify the Denim Tears narrative. 

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Having reworked two archival styles for the project, crafted in auburn leather and smeared with tawny blemishes, Emory’s own memories have, quite literally, stained the shoe. “My family’s history guides my paint brush unwaveringly,” he admits, recalling how his grandfather would use the soil to make bricks, while his family funeral plot is submerged in the region’s coppery terrain. “Never in my imagination did I think that I would have a son who would introduce Harlem, GA red clay to the whole wide world,” Emory’s father texted him, having seen the design. And while the designer confesses that a co-branded collaboration can often muffle a label’s voice, this time it just felt right. “That’s the dance. I’m from the hood so I’m out here getting these stories off by any means necessary.”

The Denim Tears sneaker collab is now available to purchase on its website, with a wider release scheduled to follow on October 15.