Aleali May Turns The Air Jordan VI “Millennial Pink”
Aleali’s third collaboration with Jordan Brand draws inspiration from Chicago, the runway and the millennial generation.
On September 29, 2017, Aleali May was styling a Jordan Women’s shoot in Los Angeles. In between getting each look just right, she went on social media to share a video of her “Friends & Family” Air Jordan VIs and announce that she was officially Jordan Brand family.
As it happens, those Air Jordans VIs weren’t her first collaborative release. However, their unexpected “Millennial Pink” shade set the tone for how Aleali would creatively reinterpret classic Jordan Brand silhouettes, based on her story, her style influences and her sharp cultural purview.
Aleali’s first release with Jordan Brand, an Air Jordan I, blended corduroy, chenille and satin as a ‘90s-driven homage to the flea market slippers and vintage LA sports team jackets that characterize L.A. style. Her second release, the Air Jordan I “Court Lux,” was a 2000s-era tribute to the union of basketball, hip-hop, fashion and skateboarding.
Left to Right: Aleali at her AJI release in Los Angeles; Aleali wearing the Air Jordan I “Court Lux” at Paris Fashion Week; Aleali wearing the Air Jordan VI “Millennial Pink” at Paris Fashion Week
Now, Aleali’s third release, the Air Jordan VI “Millennial Pink,” takes it back to that first announcement, while also nodding to her time spent in Chicago and her vision for the future. In 2010, Aleali moved to Chicago for college, where she had life-changing experiences that led to her career in styling, modeling, marketing and designing. That foundation paved the way for her being an in-demand presence at international fashion weeks, where she witnesses major trends like “Millennial Pink” unfolding in real-time.
Aleali wears the Air Jordan VI “Millennial Pink” at the Columbia College Chicago library in Chicago, where she attended university from 2010-2014.
Below, Aleali explains how she “hit the ground running” in her Air Jordan VIs and why her third release had to be “Millennial Pink.”
When did you get your first pair of Air Jordan VIs?
I grew up around a lot of guys. Everyone around me wore Jordans. I bought my first pair of VIs using money from my high school job. I wore them so much, even going into college in Chicago. I still have them actually. Before that, I was wearing Air Jordan IIIs nonstop.
My first couple days in Chicago, I was going around to different stores with my VIs on. The Air Jordan VI is the first shoe I hit the ground running in. I didn’t know anybody in Chicago at the time. I learned a lot more about the culture of Jordan in Chicago, being more in the mix. Six years ago (coincidentally), I got a job at RSVP Gallery, a place that helped nurture what would become my next steps in fashion.
How did you find RSVP Gallery?
I first saw RSVP on Tumblr. It was a couple of months before I made my way to Chicago. I had already been accepted at Columbia College Chicago and was going to school for marketing. It was one of the first places I wanted to go once I got there. I had never seen high and low fashion in one place like that. Everyone I looked up to from a musical or fashion standpoint either had their line there or was friends with the owners. It took me about a year to actually start working at RSVP, and it’s where I figured out that I really liked both styling and modeling.
At the time, social media was still new. I was doing everything from ringing people up to modeling the clothes we were getting. I’d be modeling, someone else would be shooting, and we’d be thinking about how we were going to put content out there. We started making music mixes. I was running the Instagram. You had to be multifaceted to work there. It was really cool to be around like-minded people who had big dreams.
What do you think about Chicago and what you gained from that experience, in hindsight?
Chicago is one of the best cities to live in, aside from it being cold. You can’t really explain it unless you’re there. I remember once, for my friend and store manager Easy Otabor’s birthday, we went to the Michael Jordan Steakhouse. I didn’t even know he had a steakhouse! I learned more about the sneaker world and a lot of defining moments in MJ’s life that I didn’t know about prior to living in Chicago. There were so many incredible moments for me — just realizing how important MJ, Jordan Brand, basketball, streetwear and fashion are for me. Chicago love is a different love.
So knowing the Air Jordan VI was your go-to shoe in Chicago, why did you decide to make your collaborative version “Millennial Pink”?
It was really based on the trend of millennial pink that I saw men’s clothing brands using at the time. I was like, “Wow, millennial pink is not just soft, it can be hard, too.” The color sums up this dual-gender approach that people are still getting used to, and it shows that this newer generation of kids are able to wear whatever they want.
It also plays off of my own style. I wear men’s and women’s clothing. The AJVI is also one of my favorite Jordans. Anyone who looks at the AJVI sees that it’s a masculine shoe but has soft features. It’s like the AJI. Both men and women can wear it. When I think of an AJVI, though, it’s definitely red, black, and/or white.This one’s just so different from what we’re used to seeing. I love stepping outside the box and giving new meaning to classic silhouettes and pink sneakers.
How would you describe where your design instincts come from?
It’s really about history. If I’m working with Jordan Brand, I’m looking at the history of Air Jordans, but I’m also traveling and having dialogue with friends and family. All of these things influence me, because how would I know about millennial pink ‘fits if I wasn’t in Paris seeing them on the runway or reading articles?
A lot of older sneakerheads may not understand why we did a pink shoe. It’s based on travel, fashion and what I see in the new generation. I was thinking about taking Infrared to a new place. You can create something that’s totally new and different but still relates to the history of the brand.
How else would you say that this shoe, the AJVI “Millennial Pink,” fits into your journey with Jordan Brand?
The first AJI represented the younger Aleali. The second one is about me finding who I was in the midst of growing up as teenager — finding my style and seeing so many aspects of culture colliding. The AJVI “Millennial Pink” is about the present and the future.
The Air Jordan VI “Millennial Pink” is available globally starting March 15 on SNKRS and at select retailers.
The following retailers in North America will be releasing the shoe: Jumpman Chicago, Jumpman L.A., Nordstrom x Nike (Toronto, Chicago, L.A. & Seattle), FinishLine.com, A Ma Maniére (Atlanta & Washington, D.C.), Bodega (Boston & L.A.), Concepts (Boston & NYC), Social Status (Charlotte, Pittsburgh & Houston), KITH (NYC, Brooklyn & L.A.), Crème (Norfolk), Trophy Room (Orlando), Ubiq (Philadelphia), Extra Butter (NYC), Hirshleifers (NYC), Woodstack (Brooklyn), Wish (Atlanta), RSVP Gallery (Chicago & L.A.), Notre (Chicago), Xhibition (Cleveland), Sneaker Politics (New Orleans, Lafayette & Austin), Oneness (Lexington), Shoe Gallery (Miami), Sole Fly (Miami), Pogo (Chicago), Undefeated (L.A. & Las Vegas), Revolve (L.A.), Feature (Las Vegas) and Nice Kicks (L.A.).