Supreme has unveiled its next spring collaboration, this time partnering with the Roy DeCarava Archives for a range of tees and hoodies flaunting DeCarava’s critically acclaimed photographs. The artist, born in Harlem in 1919, was an integral part of various photography movements and was celebrated for capturing the experience of the Black community.
Like most of Supreme’s partnerships, the collection highlights its meaning beyond clothing. The streetwear brand fully delves into DeCarava’s work before plastering it on tees and hoodies, while also keeping its own branding to a minimum.
An American icon — As a former painter, as well as a printmaker and draftsman, DeCarava understood composition, something that infiltrates his photographs heavily. His silver gelatin prints opened new technical possibilities in contemporary photography, which encouraged Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole to note DeCarava’s combination of underexposure, darkroom virtuosity, and occasionally printing on soft paper.
DeCarava was a leading figure in photography: Two years after his first exhibition in 1950, he became the first African-American photographer to win a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. DeCarava also worked with the poet Langston Hughes on a collaboration titled The Sweet Flypaper of Life, creating a fictional narrative of Sister Mary Bradley, a grandmother of Harlem. The project later inspired his 1960 work the sound i saw, which followed the jazz scene in New York City. In 1955, DeCarava established The Photographer’s Gallery; following that he became a Distinguished Professor of Art at Hunter College.
Acclaimed apparel — Supreme pays tribute to DeCarava — and his famous subjects — on two T-shirts and a hoodie. The latter, which comes in five colors, showcases a 1964 photo of Malcolm X on its rear. White, black, neon yellow, and blue tees feature the same photo, while another version depicts another of DeCarava’s black-and-white photos. The images, and subsequently the apparel that highlights them, are simplistic but incredibly impactful.
Supreme’s Roy DeCarava collection arrives at 11 a.m. ET this Thursday, May 19, with the apparel available on the streetwear label’s website and in stores. The capsule launches just days after a gunman fatally shot 10 people in a racist attack at a Buffalo supermarket, one of the deadliest racist massacres in modern American history but unfortunately not one of the only to have recently taken place. While Supreme’s collection was likely scheduled for months, its arrival reminds us that the injustices Malcolm X fought against are still present today.
Wearing a Supreme tee won’t alleviate such inequity, although purchasing one may: All profits from the Roy DeCarava collection will benefit the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.