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How Jordan Brand Wings Writes a Blueprint for Creative Identity

Jordan Brand Wings Chicago 5

On the eve of NBA All-Star 2020, the four students from the Jordan Brand Wings Design program who designed this year's Wings collection — Mohammad Holmes, Arial Grier, German Carvajal and James Jackson — share their creative process in a private community event at 32 South State Street. Afterward, a panel discussion with Chairman of Jordan Advisory Board, Larry Miller and Little Black Pearl Executive director Monica Haslip focused on the efforts by Wings to make design school more accessible for underrepresented communities in Chicago.

The work of Jordan Brand Wings champions education as a tool for opportunity in three distinct ways. The Wings Scholars program, for example, provides full-ride college scholarships to high-achieving students. The other two components — the Jordan Brand Wings Design program and the Jordan Brand Internship program — focus on education in the footwear and apparel design industry, and further deepen the goal of Jordan Brand Wings to establish rooted connections within the communities it serves.

“Among Jordan Brand’s core principles is strengthening the community through investment in youth," says Craig Williams, President of Jordan Brand. “The Jordan Brand Wings program is focused on leveling the playing field by providing access to education and mentorship.”

The collaborative nature of the Wings Design program, in its partnering with local Chicago organizations who are grounded in the same community-minded approach, unlocks a critical truth through this year's Jordan Chicago Collaborators Collection: the potential of design mentorship is realized when creativity isn’t only fostered among local youth, but is entrusted to them by providing the highest platforms to showcase their work.

A Look Back at Jordan Brand Wings Footwear

The students who designed this year’s collection each came from four participating organizations of the Jordan Wings Designers program in Chicago: Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy, Enlace Chicago, Embarc Chicago and LINK Unlimited scholars. These organizations have partnered with Jordan Brand Wings since its 2015 inception. There are the tangible effects of the brand’s presence, like the kickstarting of 10-week training workshops in footwear and apparel design hosted in the 32 South State flagship store. Then there are the more abstract qualities of the relationship, which is the trust spurred by years of interaction between Jordan Brand and the community organizations who know distinctively how design can be used to inspire local youth, a reciprocity that brings out the best from all parties.

“Jordan Brand has always been synonymous with 'the best' in Chicago culture,” says Monica Haslip, Executive Director of Little Black Pearl. “The opportunity for us to engage with Jordan Brand beyond being a consumer invites them to explore what makes them feel such affection, and how that can translate into discovering their own greatness. Being connected to a product that they consider 'the best' invites them to infuse their love for the product and their belief in themselves for a better future.”

Of course, the guidance of work within the organizations points toward a future. For the Wings designers, it’s the opportunity to design for the brand at a deeper level. For others, fundamentally, it’s the preparation for a meaningful career in any field, one that prizes creativity, work ethic and persistence. The four designers of the Jordan Chicago Collaborators Collection are now the ones entrusted to guide their communities firsthand; as part of All-Star Weekend, they will mentor local high school youth on the basics of product design in one of many design workshops taking place throughout the city. Another opportunity announced over the weekend taps into the Jordan Brand’s collaborative muscle: Two participants of the Jordan Designers program in Chicago will have the opportunity to receive a full-time internship at Jordan Brand headquarters this summer, which will include a job-shadow experience with either Virgil Abloh’s Off-White label or Dior, respectively.

“We want to empower young creative minds to imagine a world of possibilities,” says Martin Lotti, VP of Design at Jordan Brand. “When we built the Wings program it was to create new opportunities for future leaders. Through the collaborative partnerships that we’ve built, we can ignite the creative potential of youth to realize a better future for themselves, their communities and design as a whole.”

Read More: Jordan Brand Community