Clayton Patterson – an artist, photographer and videographer known for documenting the unique character of Manhattan’s Lower East Side – was born in Canada in 1948. Patterson taught etching, printmaking and lithography at universities across Canada before moving to New York City in 1979 with partner and fellow artist Elsa Rensaa. In 1983, Patterson and Rensaa purchased 161 Essex St., a former dressmaker’s shop, where they still live and work.
Over the years, Patterson and Rensaa’s multifaceted storefront has taken many forms. In the mid-80s, it became the de-facto home of Clayton Caps. Using a 100-year-old embroidery machine, Rensaa chainstitched Patterson’s folkloric illustrations onto wide-brim baseball caps. Pioneering a new approach to an American classic, Patterson and Rensaa were the first to embroider their custom caps across the sides, back and visor. Clayton Caps became ubiquitous throughout Lower Manhattan, and their distinctive style has since been widely adopted. Starting in the mid-80’s, 161 Essex also served as a gallery, featuring work by local artists as varied as Dash Snow, Boris Lurie, Jerry Pagane, LA II, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, bikers and religious worshipers. In 1999, The New York Times described the space as “a hub where many locals, from Hasidic rabbis to skinhead anarchists, often drop in to chew over neighborhood issues, seek advice or just see who else might be there.”
Patterson and Rensaa have amassed an immense archive of their adopted neighborhood’s social, cultural and underground histories. It includes thousands of photographs and countless hours of video footage; books, postcards and press clippings; as well as objects and creative detritus they’ve collected from the street – stickers, stamped heroin bags, protest signs, fliers for drag nights and hardcore punk shows. “It’s a wealth of material, but it’s one guy’s view of it,” Patterson told The New York Times. “The history of the Lower East Side is dense, multicultural and diverse. There are multiple layers within the community. You had Jews, Asians, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, avant-garde filmmakers, tattoo parlors, the gay clubs, the art scene. It takes having documented all these different circles to get how they connected.”
For over four decades, Patterson has engaged with neighbors from these cross-cultural communities, and documented daily life. He's captured defining events (video footage of the widespread police brutality during the Tompkins Square Park Police Riot, for which Patterson was arrested) and every-day joy (generations of portraits of local kids who’d pose outside his front door). Today, Patterson and Rensaa’s home and work remain a monument to their neighborhood’s renegade history and spirit.
Supreme has worked with Clayton Patterson on a collection for Spring 2021. The collection consists of an Embroidered MA-1 Jacket, Shirt, Jean, L/S T-Shirt and a 5-Panel.
Select pieces available April 8th.
Select pieces available in Japan April 10th.