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SANTA BARBARA, CA– Southern California-based global lifestyle brand UGG® (a division of Deckers Brands [NYSE: DECK]) is honored to partner with Denim Tears on a collaboration which launches today. Founder of his artistic moniker Denim Tears, Tremaine Emory is a modern-day Renaissance man. Utilizing the art of visual storytelling as a Trojan horse to traverse the intersection between fashion, music, and culture, Emory has forged a fast-growing reputation as a visionary agent provocateur and countercultural catalyst. Amplified through creative playground No Vacancy Inn, he works to widen the current cultural lexicon through collaborations that are centered on contemporary art. These collaborations, like his current campaign with UGG®, are relayed as some of the most designative cultural touchstones to date.  

A true multi-hyphenate creative, Emory views art and design as means to the same end, shining an eclectic light on a cultural diaspora often overlooked through popular culture’s chasmic and monosyllabic lens. Emory’s collaboration with UGG® is a deeply personal exploration of his great-grandmother Onia’s Black Seminole heritage, incorporating inspiration found in associated iconography and craft techniques from the southeastern United States.

“My grandmother is 95 years old. Once my grandmother goes, that’s it. There’s no one else for me to talk to in my family about my great-grandmother. She’s the last living person on Earth who knew my great-grandmother. How much more time does she have? Or do any of us have? So, this is my attempt to try to cement some history so that, maybe one day, five kids or the rest of my family know the history.”  —Tremaine Emory  
Tremaine is on a deep dive to uncover more of his great-grandmother’s history – stitching together his discoveries into wearable art. Rooted in Indigenous and Black American heritage, his work pays tribute to a unique tradition springing out of two cultures. There’s something sacred about this exploration into his Black Seminole past, which is also his future and his present. For Emory, it’s all about family, history, and memorializing the stories that weren’t recorded due to the restraints of pervasive racism and the oppressive system of slavery. 

“Just 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.”  —Tremaine Emory  
By unraveling his Black Seminole heritage, Emory found an overlap in his own family story within New Orleans and the Black Masking Culture community there (also referred to as the “Mardi Gras Indians”). These are terms that evolved in meaning throughout history – historically, for some in New Orleans adopting this tradition, it was a way of creating their own celebration separate from the white French colonial tradition of Mardi Gras, while also paying respect to the Indigenous people in the region who helped those fleeing slavery. Now, the terms are also adopted by those who participate in the culture of wearing or creating intricate, artistic outfits in observance of Mardi Gras and its layered history. In many ways, Emory sees Mardi Gras as reflecting elements of both Black and Indigenous cultures in the southeast.

Emory reflects this inspiration in the footwear he created for UGG®. Now, Tremaine is doing the work as family historian weaving this narrative through his artistic vision, and he commemorates the journey by reimagining our iconic Classic and Tasman styles as the canvas for his unique historical lens.  
Denim Tears is a BIPOC-committed brand dedicated to telling the story of the vast African diaspora. UGG® seeks to support organizations that further the knowledge of diverse experiences and is proud to donate a total of $50,000 to two nonprofits – the Backstreet Cultural Museum and the Guardians Institute – which both prioritize the preservation of traditions long held, but seldom told. Emory intends for these donations to give back to the community that helped springboard his research into his own rich cultural history.  

• Backstreet Cultural Museum, which informed Tremaine’s research into his heritage, carries an assortment of memorabilia related to Mardi Gras and other traditions found only in New Orleans. The museum was destroyed during Hurricane Ida and as part of this collaboration, UGG® will donate $35,000 to help them rebuild.  

•Guardians Institute was founded in New Orleans in 2006 by Herreast J. Harrison in honor of her late husband, Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. The Institute is dedicated to the development of youth and focuses on literacy, the cultural arts of the larger Indigenous community, and the oral traditions of West African and American cultures. With a $15,000 donation to the Institute, UGG® is proud to help ensure the New Orleans youth community has access to the history of their people, and the elders who came before them.  
The Campaign
To further his exploration, Emory created a sixty-minute documentary while exploring his roots in New Orleans featuring two prolific individuals, Big Chief Demond Melancon and Chief Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah.

Part of a 200+ year old culture known as the Black Masking Culture of New Orleans, Big Chief Demond Melancon is well known for creating massive suits which he wears as a Black Masker in ceremonial battles on Mardi Gras day. Many of Melancon’s works honor Black subjects historically excluded from the artistic canon, often reflecting untold stories from bygone pasts to remind viewers of their interwoven shared ancestries and diasporic histories. Initially taught by a prolific elder named Big Chief Ferdinand Bigard, Melancon joined the Seminole Hunters for over 15 years under Big Chief Keitoe Jones. In 2012, the elders of the Black Masking community declared that Melancon would then be known as Big Chief Demond Melancon of the Young Seminole Hunters, his very own tribe based in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. 

Chief Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah is a two-time Edison Award winning and five-time Grammy Award nominated musician, composer, and producer. Adjuah has released twelve critically acclaimed studio recordings, three live albums, and one greatest hits collection since 2002. According to NPR, Adjuah “ushers in new era of jazz.” Adjuah is also the progenitor of “Stretch Music,” a jazz-rooted, genre-blind musical form that attempts to “stretch” jazz’s rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic conventions to encompass multiple musical forms, languages, and cultures. The grandson of Big Chief Donald Harrison Sr., who led four nations in New Orleans’ masking tradition, he is also the nephew of legendary jazz sax innovator Donald Harrison, Jr., Big Chief of the Congo Nation Black Indian Group. Growing up as a Spy Boy in New Orleans’ Black Masking Culture – where Black Americans honor the Indigenous tribes who supported their ancestors in early Louisiana – Christian is now Chief of the Yamasee, or “the Brave.” 

The Capsule Collection
Emory reimagines two UGG® styles through his unique historical lens. The UGG x Denim Tears Tasman ONIA is crafted from signature suede and sheepskin with florally adorned panels and finished with whipstitch detailing around the collar. The UGG x Denim Tears Classic ONIA adapts the brands icon, representing the fusion of his cultures with embroidery and beading. Crafted from our signature suede and sheepskin, it’s finished with whipstitch details. 

Photography Credit: Grain Cinema
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