Hiroshi Fujiwara Details His Ambitious Jordan Brand Collaboration
The Fragment founder puts his spin on the Air Jordan III, Air Cadence, Air Jordan XXXV and a new apparel collection.
Words: Jian Deleon
Photography: Shun Nakamura
It makes sense that Hiroshi Fujiwara is not just a designer but also a DJ — a careful mixer of time periods, genres and references. His tasteful precision consistently guides him, as he studies the nostalgic past and embraces the innovative future.
As a prolific Nike, Inc. collaborator, Hiroshi has an impressive number of grail-worthy pieces under his belt, executed with subtle twists and nuances that take something from “cool” to “classic.” His Fragment Air Jordan I remains a holy grail among sneaker enthusiasts, and his work alongside Mark Parker and Tinker Hatfield, under the HTM imprint, ranges from iconic lifestyle silhouettes to an open-armed embrace of newer models.
Hiroshi’s latest Fragment collaboration with Jordan Brand is his largest yet. Reimagining the Air Jordan III, Air Cadence and Air Jordan XXXV silhouettes, he also leaves his electric Fragment design imprint on an accompanying Jordan Brand apparel collection for the first time.
The Air Jordan III is rendered in a simple, black-and-white colorway, resembling a continuation of Hiroshi’s Nike “Orca Pack” from 2004. In a way, it enriches the past, as if it was a retro, by existing in the present. The AJXXXV carries the same approach; the newest Jordan game shoe includes nods from Fragment’s Black/Royal Blue AJI colorway. Meanwhile, the neutral Air Cadence provides a palate cleanser for the footwear collection, with a predominantly gray colorway meant to be as simple as possible. Each shoe symbolizes a time machine connecting Jordan Brand’s past to its future, in a way that Hiroshi and Fragment do so well.
An avid vintage enthusiast, Hiroshi looks to the sportswear silhouettes of the ‘80s, as well as the bold graphic placements of the ‘90s, for the apparel. Standard-issue, academic Phys Ed gear inspires the hoodies and sweatpants. The Jumpman logo adorns the back of oversized T-shirts, and the Fragment logo is juxtaposed with archival imagery of Michael Jordan.
Checking in from Tokyo, Hiroshi Fujiwara sheds further light on the philosophy and direction behind this expansive Jordan Brand x Fragment collaboration.
You’ve had many collaborations with Nike, Inc. and have been a champion of new footwear and apparel. What was your vision behind the volume of pieces you’ve done with Jordan Brand this time — three shoes and also apparel, especially shoes that span retro, lifestyle and performance?
Well, I spoke to the Jordan team, and there were some things I always wanted to do. I like to make shoes that I want to wear. Sometimes, it speaks to the audience. Other times, maybe it doesn’t speak to the audience, but I just like it. This collection has three shoes: The Air Jordan III, the Air Cadence and the Air Jordan XXXV.
The AJXXXV is really new. Not many people want to touch new shoes for collaborations, but I like to work with new shoes all the time. I like the technology, too. On the Air Jordan III, I wanted to do something very monochrome and simple. It’s a shoe that I really find myself wanting to wear at the moment, so I’m very happy I could make it.
Air Jordans have had many other lives outside of basketball, in worlds like skateboarding and hip-hop. It’s interesting how you were introduced to the Air Jordan I through skateboarding and your friendship with Sk8thing. Do you remember how and when you learned about the Air Jordan III and what you liked about it aesthetically and otherwise?
Right after the Air Jordan I, I started following the Jordan Brand. I’ve always liked the I, II and III best. The III has this especially classic look, and I can see how, at the time, they wanted to offer something new for basketball. They don’t look like regular basketball shoes, they felt really new to me then.
“It's the design and then the fit — how you put your feet into the sneakers and really feel like, ‘Wow, this is new.’ ”
Your take on the Air Jordan III almost looks like a lost artifact. Part of the beauty in nostalgia is how imperfect the human memory is; it’s a shoe that looks like it was part of your 2004 “Orca Pack,” but it happens to be totally new. What was the idea in creating a “shoe out of time?”
I always want to wear white sneakers, but I kind of wear black all the time right now. So I wanted to add black and white, like how vintage cars have a white ribbon on the tires. I think they’re also like dress shoes; you can wear them with a suit or something. Mostly, they’re simple shoes. It’s one of the best Jordans to me, so I’m happy to bring it back this way.
It’s also interesting to see your reinterpretation of the AJXXXV, and how there are nods to the Fragment Air Jordan I colorway. What excites you more about new silhouettes — innovation and technology or the novelty of a design you haven’t seen before?
It’s the design and then the fit — how you put your feet into the sneakers and really feel like, “Wow, this is new.” It’s so different compared to older, vintage shoes. I like the innovations, too. Maybe these shoes will be a holy grail in 10 years, I don’t know. That’s why I’m proud to work with new sneakers also. It’s very futuristic.
The Air Cadence is a unique choice to reinterpret. It’s new, and it has a running aesthetic that exists within a brand that has basketball at its core. There are certainly a lot of layers to dig into, but what attracted you to this model? And how did you arrive at this neutral color story?
Yes, this is also something new for Jordan, and I was really interested in doing this shoe. Before this, we did an HTM — the Jordan Trunner NXT React. Since then, I’ve been interested in doing some of Jordan’s running and lifestyle shoes. I saw a sample of this shoe, and at the time, I was wearing all gray, even though I still like to wear all black. Since the sample I saw was more colorful, I wanted to do something more simple. I really like the gray for all seasons.
You’ve expanded into Jordan apparel with this Fragment collection, and the silhouettes seem to be inspired by the bold graphics of the ‘90s. There are also some pieces with photographs of MJ combined with the Fragment logo. What is it about this decade that made it a natural starting point?
Well, it’s not only my designs, it was the whole team. The Jordan team showed me some designs they did, and I said: “Oh, that’s good, but let’s change this and that.” I wanted to use big Jumpman logos on the back with color blocking and then keep it simple on the front.
Were there any specific references you were thinking about when working on this apparel collection?
The nylon pants and tracksuits are very ‘80s silhouettes, I think. I’ve seen the vintage Jordan collections, that was one of the first things I did when we started talking about the apparel. I don’t really want to bring anything back, I just want to get a better feel for what was going on at the time. I don’t want to bring back the same material or the same things, but I want to keep the authenticity.
As someone who pays special attention to typefaces and graphics, how do you decide where a logo fits best on a sneaker or a garment? The placement on these new pieces seems very intentional and thoughtful.
One thing I really care about is the size of the Fragment logo. I don’t want it to be too big. I always try to keep it really small and simple. I’ve also been using code numbers with Nike for the past maybe five or ten years. Every shoe I’ve made with Nike has this code. It’s kind of my new logo that I’ve been doing.
Has the pandemic changed the way you view clothing like hoodies and sweatpants?
I haven’t really changed how I view them, but it’s good to have comfortable things, even just for the clothes you wear at home. I’m stuck in Tokyo. I can’t really travel anywhere. That is kind of boring, but hopefully we can travel again soon.
Music has always been an important part of your process. Are there any genres or styles of music that you found inspiring while working on this collection?
Not really, I’m just playing random music all the time. Sometimes, I just play what’s on my laptop at home, and I can’t tell what’s old or new. I’ll just play Spotify and have a mix of music playing.
What would you say you were looking at and trying to capture while working on this collection?
For this, I can say that I was looking at the vintage Jordan collections. That was the beginning, I think. I wanted to feel what the clothes looked like — the atmosphere and what it felt like to wear them then, including nylon tracksuits, the Air Jordan I and things like that.
I didn’t really want to bring anything back necessarily, I just wanted to feel what was going on then and capture the emotion authentically.
The Fragment x Air Jordan III, Air Cadence and apparel are available starting September 17. The Fragment x Air Jordan XXXV is available starting October 28.