In the height of Jordan ‘Black Cat’ season and anticipation of the AJ 31 hitting shelves this weekend, Tinker talks about the process from concept to production for the original AJ 13.

 In the below video and behind the scenes interview with Jordan Flight Crew member Jacques Slade, Hatfield pulls us in to the process of personal storytelling and trying to improving on perfection when thinking about performance.

JS: I would imagine someone coming to me and saying ‘Hey, we want to design your shoe, based on a cat’… How did you pitch that?

TH: I think that’s a great question because it’s part of our job to come up with new ideas but you also have to deliver the idea the right way. We were shooting a commercial in LA and I had a board I had pasted some drawings to, and a couple of photos. One was of a black leopard and one was a spotted leopard. I literally camped out while we were shooting ‘Frozen Moment,’ an iconic Jordan commercial.

JS: Looking at the line as a whole, the 13 seems to be in its own place. What do you think it is about the AJ 13?

TH: In retrospect, I think you could say it came from a more personal perspective, which was observing somebody and mixing them with some other entity.

Of course we know that design is – especially for performance at the highest level – not easy to improve upon. There’s a lot of performance design activity going along with trying to maintain this connection with that vision.

 JS: How do you figure out a shoe to match an athlete’s ability?

TH: A lot of people look at shoes and judge them on their aesthetics, but we know we’re trying to help these players at all levels be better athletes. While I was going through this vision of the black cat, it seemed like you could improve performance with the outsole by making it more paw-like, making it sort of flex down the middle and across the lateral. So the outsole started to look, stylistically, like the paw of a cat.

In testing, as we started to create prototypes, players were telling us that this shoe flexed better and it actually gave them more contact with the floor, like an animal’s paw would give. I felt that was a very important part of what we were always trying to do, which was improve the way the shoe works but making sure a story existed in there too.

The Air Jordan 31 ‘Black Cat’ goes on sale 3/11/17 on jordan.com