Jordan Brand finally unveils its first women’s line

Credti: Aaron Fischman
Credti: Aaron Fischman /

Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Aleali May looked up to her uncle, Uncle G. She wanted to be just like him. Whenever he bought Jordan shoes, she had to get a new pair as well. Late last year, at the age of 25, May became the first woman to design Air Jordan shoes released in both men’s and women’s sizing.

Last Thursday, at its “Future of Flight” event, Jordan Brand unveiled the Season of Her spring women’s collection, which May styled herself. The collection includes Jordan Brand’s first women’s line. She reflected a little on her journey: “I always have been around Jordans even before I could even speak on the game.”

The stylist-model expressed excitement that a women’s line was finally being released, particularly given that she could play such a prominent role in leading the charge. “As a young girl, you’ve always had your brothers or your cousins playing and they had the new 7s,” May said, “and you’re like, ‘Ah, man. I want a pair. Where can I get those?’ And now years later, we’re finally seeing something that’s for us.”

“But that’s the thing,” continued May, “for women, we’ve always had, ‘Oh, if you can fit a size 7, then you [are] good in men’s. And now we have our own colorways, our own take on silhouettes, for example, the ones I’m wearing. And it’s so exciting to see that…There’s this whole other side that needs to be present.”

Legendary filmmaker Spike Lee, who appeared to May’s left on Thursday’s panel discussion, joked about men now wanting to wear women’s Jordans in a reversal from the past couple decades: “I saw a joint in the back, and they had my size…and I’m wearing it. The women’s line, I’m wearing that joint.”

In designing these new colorways, there were two primary objectives according to Andrea Perez, vice president and general manager of the women’s and kid’s product for Jordan Brand. She noted that they had to be “distinctly Jordan” and “undeniably for her.” Perez elaborated, “We don’t want to be like any other brand; we have to be about the brand that we believe in. The second thing is that also we don’t want to be Jordan men’s. And that means to think about the materials and what ideas does she resonate with, to think about the fit, the stance, the silhouettes, the ease of entry, and other things that she’s been telling us that she wants and needs.”

Consciously or unconsciously, girls and women have been encouraged to dress a certain “feminine” way. Aleali May’s grandmother Sharon played that role in her life, for example, but May doesn’t believe there should be one solitary way of presenting oneself to the world through fashion. And it should be up to the individual with no regard to what others want or expect her to wear.

“I kind of always wanted to mix the street and also high end,” May explains, “so that was pretty much my style and take on it and just showing that you don’t really have to just be one. Especially for women, I feel like we’re more geared to ‘we have to wear heels.’ I like to do both, and I like to just wear what I like to wear and be unique and individual. I feel like a lot of girls could relate to that where they want to wear their Jordans and they want to wear their Chanel bags.”

“I think that all over the world and no matter who they are, young women are gravitating to things that make them feel strong and confident and comfortable,” said Andrea Perez, “and in the past maybe that was just heels, and in the present and in the future, it’s going to be those sneakers.”

According to Jordan Brand executives, a diverse team made up of women and men from different backgrounds collectively designed the spring women’s collection, but an emphasis was made on empowering the women to shape the product.

Jordan Brand president Larry Miller put it this way: “We’re all involved in it, and there’s a bigger team of people involved in it, but the folks who have the responsibility for making sure that we bring the best product to the market are women.” He continued, “For guys to try to understand and know exactly what women want, that’s what we do every day, right? That’s our life: try to figure out what women want.” Various members of the media laughed, as did Miller. “And to have women actually doing it, to have women who are that consumer, who understand that consumer, who are Jordan fans themselves, to have them actually designing and working on that product, to me makes a lot of sense.”

Andrea Perez concurred, as she spoke to reporters, donning the AJ VIII Valentine’s Day model shoes, which won’t be released to the public until Feb. 9. “More important than the team being about women,” said Perez, “I think it is that the team loves to listen to women. No matter if they’re men or women, they sit down with our consumers and it’s like, ‘Hey, let it rip. Tell us what you think.’”

The consumer-driven aspect of the women’s line was also a point of pride for Jordan Brand vice president of global marketing Brian O’ Connor. “I don’t know if it’s unique,” O’ Connor said of the line’s designs. “I would say it’s very insightful. So the team is not just running out and creating product; they’ve taken the time to really go deep with the consumer: ‘What do they want?’”

“Aleali May [is] the perfect example,” said O’ Connor, noting the designer’s approach in first reaching out to potential consumers a year and a half ago and having conversations with them about various factors such as aesthetics, comfort, and performance. “We’re gonna use basically the community to drive the story,” O’Connor added.

During Miller’s question-and-answer session with the media, he highlighted the women’s line as the product type he was most excited to share. He was blunt: “We could’ve done it sooner, and we probably should have done it sooner, but I feel good about the fact that we are where we are now.”

“I’ve been around this brand for quite a while,” said Miller, “and one of the things that I’ve been getting killed on for years is ‘When are you guys gonna do some women’s product?’ And I know for a fact we’ve got a lot of female fans or consumers who love our brand, and we just really haven’t shown any love in return…In the past, we would take a men’s shoe and maybe color it up or something like that, and that was OK, but now we’re actually building shoes from the ground up for our female consumer.”

In his more than a decade (this is his second stint) leading Jordan Brand, Miller has overseen the introduction of various women’s products, but never a line devoted to women. Well, what has taken so long?

“I think it just took us time to really get to the space where we could do it and do it right. We tried in the past, but we weren’t quite ready. First of all, we didn’t have the proper distribution for it. We didn’t have the proper design talent to get the product right. There was just a lot of things. We weren’t quite ready. I think now we are ready. I think this was the right time for us. I feel like now we can do it and do it right and not kind of halfway do it. I think we’re at a point now where we have the resources, we have the focus and we have the ability to do it the right way.”

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Although many were understandably frustrated with how long it took to arrive, the spring footwear line is a huge step, but the company acknowledges it is far from done with regard to introducing new products and lines for women. With that said, women’s apparel is not yet here despite the popularity of Jordan Brand’s men’s apparel. To that end, Miller promised that apparel designed for and devoted to women would be on the horizon. “We’re starting with footwear,” he said. “The goal is that we’re gonna continue to build on it…We haven’t gotten to women’s apparel yet, but that’s coming. That’s the next step of it.”

As for the evolution of the shoes, “It’s not just the same OG shoe,” O’ Connor said. “It’s designed for her. And it’s gonna keep getting deeper and deeper. This is a long-term commitment.”