When Vashtie Kola became the first woman to design a Jordan sneaker in 2010 – 25 years after the dawn of the shoe’s revolutionary debut – it was a feat for a woman to break into the boys’ club of streetwear. Fortunately, style consultant, designer and model Aleali May continued to break down the gender walls of the sneaker industry in 2017.
But for the month of May, because “it took so long” to bring another female voice to the forefront of the design process, pledging to “turn this whole female market”, was crucial in her journey with the Jordan brand, she said about it. Glossy podcast of the week.
After working at RSVP Gallery, an upscale and streetwear retailer in Chicago owned by Virgil Abloh and Don C, May was given the opportunity to make her mark in Jordanian history. And with that opportunity came the guiding question of storytelling.
With Air Jordan, “Every silhouette has its own story,” May said. As a force integral to the ins and outs of the fashion industry, May’s unique perspective on the industry has continued to evolve, particularly with regards to the peaks and troughs of the pandemic and its impact on inclusiveness within the industry as a whole.
In terms of design, May continues to make her mark in the traditionally male-dominated sneaker industry. “The more seasoned I am, the more willing I am to try new silhouettes,” she said.
And looking into the future of streetwear and the fashion industry, “My goal is [to try] to include more brands for women, more ideas from women, more products for women and of course unisex too, ”said May.
This week, October 6-7, she co-hosts Transfer, a two-day virtual festival on the live-shopping platform NTWRK. It will feature exclusive drops from brands such as Nike and Hood by Air, as well as experiential designer content, among other components.
Below are additional conversation highlights, which have been edited slightly for clarity.
Growing up with Jordan
“Growing up, it was always around me and I grew up in south-central Los Angeles. All the girls around me wore Jordans, Air Forces, and Air Max. Again, they wore it with their Chanel, their Gucci bag and these are the first things I see that helped inspire my personal style. Again, I am a product of my environment. So of course I’m like, ‘Ooo, I want Jordan’s new shoe. I wanted something else, sunglasses to go with or a Gucci belt. And naturally, again, all the girls around me look like me. As you get older, this idea of when you become a woman, you have to wear X, Y, and Z. Those sneakers you got to ride them, girl. But the older I get, women like me too [say], ‘No, I’m going to keep wearing this. What do you mean? It is also my heritage. The sneaker space, on a social media platform, is definitely getting bigger, definitely growing, there are definitely women taking inspiration from all over the world. There might be a woman halfway across the world and like, “Oh, I want to go get Jordans because she saw someone here wearing it, and it looked cool to her.” It is a growing space.
Equality in sneakers
“We are looking for equality. If you want to make the same shoes as Michael Jordan, how come we can’t have them in our size? Why is it stopping? If a man wears a size five in women’s shoes, good luck finding that size in certain silhouettes or colorways. It’s still [about] include ourselves in it and also get our point of view because a woman’s eyes [are] gonna look different[ly at] a Jordanian perspective than that of a man… It’s creating that open space for people to feel comfortable being themselves. You don’t have to always wear heels. You can change it up and stay sexy. You can still be super cool. You can still be a tomboy and dance to it, have fun and live your life. “
On the prospect of his own brand
“It came slowly with evolution. At every step of my personal work, I sat there for a little while, marinated – you have to marinate enough to get all the flavors, then put it on the grill; it’s amazing – that’s how I try to treat it. Patience, savoring these specific moments and saying, “Okay, how can I bring this up? Even when I was doing styling it was, ‘Wow, I’ve always loved design. I’ve always loved sneakers, it’s a natural elevation, creating sneakers, boom. ‘ And again, building on that, we created two collections with the Jordan brand. He came with merch as well as shoes. So again, [its] part of the natural process of being a designer… I’m open to trying it. And, at the end of the day, I can say that I absolutely don’t like doing this and never will. Corn [we’ve] you have to try it to solidify [it]. But people still talk about “Oh, this generation of slashers”. And honestly, this “slasher generation” is nothing new. Artists weren’t just painters, they were [also] sculptors, they made ceramics. Again, it’s always under this fashion umbrella, exploring all things style, clothing, fabrics, and experiences.