Aleali May On Her WMNS Air Jordan 14 Low “Fortune”
The new collection is rooted in Aleali’s Filipina and Black heritage and the symbolism of jade jewelry.
Words: Olivia Lopez
Photography: Kombucci, Nailah Howze and Andrei Suleik
Film: Suresh Gordon and Ian Celis
Aleali May bridges worlds, from menswear to womenswear and sportswear to luxury. She developed her discerning taste through her L.A. upbringing, her Black and Filipina roots and her global, fashion-focused travels. For Aleali’s fifth collaboration with Jordan Brand, a WMNS Air Jordan 14 Low and apparel collection, Aleali drew from both her heritage and cultural experiences, emphasizing more personal definitions of luxury such as intergenerational jewelry, niche sports communities and diasporic creativity. It’s also her most fashion-forward sneaker to date, incorporating premium materials including jade and gold accents.
Sneakers, like jewelry, are often passed down as family heirlooms. Through the “Fortune” collection, Aleali honors her roots by referencing the traditional jade bangles she received from her grandmother. Used to signify and share good fortune, jade drives the aesthetic behind both the AJ14 Low and accompanying apparel.
Following Aleali’s first Jordan apparel collaboration last season, which took cues from her time on the drill team, Aleali designed pieces inspired by the speed and style of motorbike culture, from L.A. to Manila. Her love of the community around motorcycles manifests itself in a women’s collection that adds even more swag to biking’s signature proportions and graphics.
At the center of every Aleali May collaboration with Jordan Brand is a connection to the brand’s roots, her roots and the roots that bind communities. “This is why I do this, to bring people together, [to] bring worlds together,” she says.
Below, Aleali shares more about the new “Fortune” collaboration and the campaign that features her family members and bikers from Los Angeles.
On the impact of biking culture on her and the “Fortune” apparel collection:
In most neighborhoods, car and bike culture exists and has always been a thing. It’s something you see in L.A., Manila and elsewhere. It’s a very human thing — getting together as a community, riding and celebrating. I based the “Fortune” apparel collection off of that moto style and energy.
We’d often see images of MJ getting out of a sports car, so for the campaign, I wanted to be getting off of a bike. Jordan Brand has a motorsports history, and I wanted to see what that would look like today from a woman’s perspective.
There’s nothing like a Saturday ride with your friends, getting something to eat afterward…that’s what I love to do. I love the idea of linking with your friends to build and grow in your own life while honoring your culture and community.
On including her grandmother and aunt in the “Fortune” campaign:
It was very important to include my grandmother and my aunt. Everyone has people in their family who inspire them. I thought about the style of an old family portrait, a throwback with that sepia tone. I just wanted to do something that felt like it was “now” and fun because one day, that’s going to be a throwback.
Throughout my collaborations, I always try to go back and say thank you to whoever was supporting me at the time. My grandmother on my dad’s side gifted me gold and jade bangles that she’d had for 20 years before that. As a young girl, my grandmother on my mom’s side also gifted me her jade bangles. Those were my first pieces of jewelry.
On spotlighting her Filipina heritage:
The older I get, the more I learn about myself, and the more I go back and learn about my own history. I love seeing my Filipino family and how happy they are, how they push each other. Every single person I’ve met who’s Filipino and also in streetwear, they’ve always been like family to me. It always feels like a sense of home.
Filipinos dress amazingly, whether they’re in streetwear, or whether you’re my Tita Sue. She’s always looking fly. Like many other Filipino families, we love karaoke, and food brings us together. My Uncle Ariel and Tita Praq would host us at their house. We’d eat lumpia, kaldereta and adobo and just sing on whatever the latest karaoke machine was. Seeing my mom and all of my cousins, aunts and uncles together and making food…those are the memories I hold on to. We always have a good time.
On spotlighting her Black heritage:
My grandmother has always been the head of my dad’s family. She’s always been there for me, whether giving me advice on life and the future or just hanging out with me like a friend. She always taught me to be an independent Black woman, which is something I’ve carried with me throughout my life. It set the bar high and helped me envision what my life would look like. My uncle G was also in my first campaign for the AJ1 Satin Shadow. My family always gets together and supports each other with good food and good laughs.
On the WMNS Air Jordan 14 Low “Fortune” design:
The great part about every Air Jordan silhouette is that it has its own stories with MJ, and then you create your own stories with them, too. I take a different approach every time; it depends on the silhouette and the environment. While working on this, I was going to a few different fashion weeks. I saw a lot of jade in Shanghai, and that’s what reminded me of my family and made me want to do a jade Air Jordan 14 Low. Jade is a global stone that represents good fortune and was even traded like money.
We tried to cover the spectrum of jade tones so that anyone who wears the shoes with their jade jewelry or other green pieces will still coordinate. It was all about balancing the heritage with fashion. The gold tips on the laces are a familiar accent for people who wear jade, and people often engrave jade, so we included references to that, too. The darker sand color is meant to be very unisex.
The entire collection came together very naturally. I’m like, “How did we put jade on a shoe?” I’m definitely in love with the design, and I’m even happier when all the girls love it and create memories with it, too.
The Aleali May x Jordan Brand “Fortune” collection releases on August 19 from SNKRS and select retailers.