The Evolving Paths of Streetwear Designers

in Sep 7, 2023

The streetwear industry has seen major shifts in recent years as prominent designers take different routes to grow their brands. Two designers making big moves are Tremaine Emory and Heron Preston.

Emory recently resigned from his role as the first creative director of streetwear giant Supreme. As summarized from a Vogue Business article, Emory decided to leave Supreme due to concerns over systemic racism, after the brand allegedly canceled a collaboration with artist Arthur Jafa.

Shortly after, Emory announced plans to open the first flagship store for his own label, Denim Tears, in New York City. He also unveiled a new collaboration between Denim Tears and Levi’s, showing his intent to continue to build on the success of this brand via the independent route. The collection draws inspiration from black biker culture and will be previewed via a pop-up before the flagship store opens.

By departing Supreme to build his own brand, Emory gains more creative control but loses the resources and distribution of a major fashion brand. He'll need to continue to prove Denim Tears can thrive independently. However, the brand could benefit from his hard work, reputation and from fans supporting his decision to leave Supreme over racial issues.

Fellow streetwear designer Heron Preston is taking a different path, as summarized from an H&M press release. Preston has been hired by H&M in a consultant and collaborative role focused on menswear and the retailer's new innovation platform.

Preston will provide creative direction, design capsule collections launching in 2024, and mentor emerging talent. He co-founded the label Been Trill and has an acclaimed reputation.

For Preston, partnering with H&M gives him expanded resources and distribution but could risk diluting his personal brand's appeal and exclusivity. However, the partnership could enable him to reach more mainstream audiences and positively impact H&M's sustainability initiatives.

The diverging trajectories of Emory and Preston showcase how fashion designers with roots in streetwear have options to go independent or partner with established brands. Their future impact on streetwear and broader fashion remains to be seen. But these moves demonstrate streetwear's continued evolution and the potential for designers to drive change.

Have any thoughts on these developments? Let us know!


Johnny T.