How Michael Jordan personally inspired Aleali May to work even harder – Footwear News
In FN’s February magazine, Jordan Brand President Craig Williams joined retailer James Whitner, designer Aleali May and WNBA champion Aerial Powers for an exclusive discussion about their efforts to celebrate black culture and improve black community conditions.
In 2017, Aleali May became the first woman in Jordan Brand history to design a unisex sneaker with her Los Angeles-inspired Air Jordan 1.
This was followed by several other collaborations, including new iterations of the Air Jordan 1 and Air Jordan 6.
Four years later, she made history again by becoming the first woman to create a collection of Jordan Brand women’s footwear and apparel. Some of his notable recent releases include an Air Jordan 1 High Zoom Comfort and an Air Jordan 14, inspired by his high school drill team in Inglewood, California and his half-Black and half-Filipino heritage, respectively.
However accomplished as she is, May is quick to recognize the pioneers who came before her. Most notably, she points to Vashtie Kola, who collaborated on an Air Jordan 2 in 2010.
“I like to focus on that because, here, I was [launching my first Jordan Brand] shoe seven years later. It took time. At that time, I should have been the 50th, 100th woman to have a shoe,” May said. “I always like to remind people who have gone before me and say to them, ‘The more women [doing this] the best.'”
For Kola, appreciation is mutual. “With every sneaker she makes, Aleali harnesses that femininity but also her voice and her culture, and it’s important for young women to see that,” she said. “She opened doors for other women by showing her roots, her heritage and involving her in everything she does.”
Other sneaker legends share a similar love for May, including designer Frank Cooke, who has helped bring her dreams to fruition with each collaboration.
“Aleali tells true stories. Her fans and people who follow her can relate,” Cooke told FN. “It also breaks the barrier not only for women but also for unisex shoes, making shoes for everyone. I’m glad she tells a lot of women’s stories and inspires other women to want to make shoes.
May’s accomplishments also got the stamp of approval from Michael Jordan himself. “I met MJ after the 6s,” she recalled. “He was like, ‘I love everything you do for the brand.’ It didn’t feel like my boss. It was like the OG was saying, ‘You’re fine, keep it up.’ Jordan Brand created an environment where it’s like, ‘We want to see you well, we’re here for you. support.” It feels good to have a working family.
May added that she felt a kinship with the basketball icon. “MJ’s goal was: to go the strongest and push everyone to come with him,” she said. “I feel like it represents my story as well. It’s like, ‘I’m going to kill him at this fashion s**t and I’m going to show everyone that you can do it too, and you can do it your way. ‘”
After starting out in retail and working as creative director at Virgil Abloh and Don C’s RSVP gallery, May has become a fashion force who wears many hats as a collaborator, stylist and model. In 2021, for example, she starred in the campaign for Jay-Z’s cannabis company, Monogram.
When it comes to her designs, May aspires to elevate the conversation around sport and style, highlighting how Ralph Lauren has bridged the worlds of fashion and equestrianism. “Sports and music helped create fashion,” she said. “These are things that go consistently across the culture, and we need each other to co-exist so we can create dope stuff and keep moving forward.”
And she has a solid model for her goals. “Look at Michael Jordan, he’s an African-American man who’s made something out of himself. It’s amazing to see him and be like, ‘Wow, if one person could do that, maybe I can too.’ »