Image Courtesy of NSS G-Club
Meet Aleali May, the 29-year old up the fashion industry. Working as a fashion blogger, celebrity image consultant, and stylist, May has worked with artists such as Kanye West, Tinashe, and Kendrick Lamar. Her influence in the fashion industry has come to be prevalent, as she is known for being the first woman to design and release her own unisex Air Jordan sneaker.
In 2017, May was granted the chance to create her own name in Jordan Brand history after working at RSVP Gallery, an upmarket and streetwear boutique in Chicago run by Don C. and the late Virgil Abloh. Frank Cooke, former Jordan Brand designer, became familiar with May through her social media presence, “ When it came to Aleali, she stood out to me because she was fly in a way...She’s got the swag.” May become the first woman in the history of Jordan Brand to design a unisex sneaker, with her “Satin Shadow” Air Jordan I release. An homage to her South Central LA roots, the design features a corduroy upper, inspired by the house slippers from the famous Slauson Swap Meet where her father would buy them. Also, the chenille, satin, and orange details on the shoe are reminiscent of the iconic Los Angeles Raiders and LA Kings Starter jackets from the 1990s.
May's love for shoes began when her Uncle "G" purchased her first pair of Jordans, long before she became a streetwear guru. Because uniforms were mandated at Hillcrest Drive Elementary School, shoes were her major tool of fashion experimentation.
Image Courtesy of Kicks on Fire
May has collaborated with Jordan Brand several times since her first release, including dropping her own apparel collection, making her the first woman to do so with the brand alongside a shoe release. Her most recent drops include her take on the Air Jordan I High Comfort and the Air Jordan 14. Her designs aim to enhance the debate about sport and style, citing Ralph Lauren's ability to unite the fashion and equestrian worlds. May has evolved into a fashion powerhouse, wearing several hats as a collaborator, stylist, and model. Her accomplishments have also earned the admiration of Michael Jordan himself, and she has stated that she feels a kinship with the basketball legend. “MJ’s whole goal was: Go the hardest and push everybody to come up with him,” she says, “I feel like that represents my story, too. It’s like, ‘I’m going to kill it at this fashion s**t and I’m going to show everyone you can do that too, and you can do it in your own way.’”
Aleali has made leaps and bounds in a market dominated by men, she’s released five more Jordans since 201 including new takes on the Jordan I and Jordan 6 silhouettes. “I want to take Jordan silhouettes to the next level,” she says, “I want to highlight more women. There are more girls just like me that love heels but also love sneakers.”
Despite being the first woman to produce a shoe in both men's and women's sizes, May always looked to other women for inspiration. There were even fewer to imitate once she established her own sense of style and began working in her own environment. Her impeccable taste and achievements, as well as her obviously strong sense of self, have laid a solid basis for her work with Jordan.
During the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, May said when she "all women got a Jordan”. This phrase has been her career's purpose as she continues to open up opportunities for women within the sneaker world. The industry has no choice but to pay heed as Black female creators like Aleali May continue to emerge and break industry norms and standards.