Extraordinary luxury meets sporting heritage.
A stunning revelation
It was early December, 2019, and a host of celebrities had turned out for the Fall 2020 Dior Men’s Collection catwalk show in Miami. Renowned American fashion designer and Nike collaborator Shawn Stussy had created an original graphic to cover the catwalk, walls and ceiling of the long hall in which the event was held, giving it a dynamic backdrop. Amongst all of this artistry and the Dior apparel being paraded up and down the catwalk, a uniquely exclusive sneaker announced itself to the world. Like many of the items on show, it exuded Dior luxury through the brand’s trademark shade of grey and the Dior Oblique pattern. However, the silhouette on which these symbols were displayed was from a very different world. Dior’s instantly recognisable emblem was sewn into enlarged Nike swooshes on a model that was familiar to any self-respecting sneaker enthusiast – the Air Jordan 1. Selfridges later wrote that the unveiling “broke the internet” with the speculation it generated following the event. Such excitement was understandable given this was an unprecedented collaboration between one of the most iconic sneaker brands of all time and a luxury fashion house. At the end of the show, the shoe’s co-creator, Dior Men’s Artistic Director, Kim Jones, strode out onto the catwalk in a pair of the brand new Air Jordan 1 OG Dior Low and High, signifying to the world the beginning of this monumental partnership.
Just a few days after the event, on December 7th, a video was posted to the Christian Dior YouTube channel that revealed some of the story behind the design. Those who had only caught a mere glimpse of it at the catwalk show were to get a detailed look at the luxurious sneaker as its other co-creator, Head Footwear Designer for Dior Men, Thibo Denis, explained a few of its defining inspirations. In conversation with sneaker aficionado Sean Wotherspoon, who himself had worked with Nike on the Air Max 97/1, Denis imparted many interesting facts. He told Wotherspoon that this was the first Jordan to be constructed in Italy since the 1986 Jordan 2. He also spoke of how they had wanted to develop a product of the highest quality by focusing on the shape, which was taken from the Neutral 85 Jordan, the leather, which was made to be extra thick, and the construction, which was almost like that of a carefully crafted Dior bag, with painted edges and special stitching. This instilled the design with the perfect blend of each brand’s heritage. As the pair continued to talk, Wotherspoon displayed the kind of excitement that many must have felt about this design, marvelling as he noticed its many fascinating details. There was the Dior patch on the tongue, the Dior Oblique embossed onto the natural leather hidden beneath the insole, the transparent outsole revealing a Dior logo under the right foot and the new Air Dior logo under the left, and finally, the words “Dior” and “Jumpman” etched into the lace aglets. The sneaker enthusiast finished the video by declaring the Air Jordan 1 OG Dior a “timeless shoe”, giving it the perfect hype ahead of its planned release in early 2020.
“Fit for flight”
Those eagerly awaiting more news had to wait until January 19th, 2020, for the next teaser. In it, Jordan posted an image of Travis Scott in Air Dior apparel, including a branded blue bucket hat which the popular rapper had pulled down over his face. His right leg was lifted, showing off the profile of the Air Dior sneaker, and the simple caption read “Fit for flight. @travisscott is draped out in the Air Dior x #JUMPMAN collection.” Not only did this showcase the shoe itself, but it revealed that there would be a whole collection of Air Dior clothing and accessories. Unfortunately, there were to be no more updates for a while as the pandemic forced the scheduled April 2020 release to be postponed.
A campaign reborn
It wasn’t until June that more information was revealed, but the launch campaign quickly gained speed from this point on. The first sign that the release was coming was in a post on Dior’s Instagram page on 16th June. It featured a pair of images that harked back to the sneaker’s debut at the Miami catwalk show, including a set painted in Shawn Stussy’s catwalk graphic. While the post was more focused on the release of the clothing collection as a whole, two of the three models wore the Air Dior collaborative sneaker, giving a timely reminder to anyone who was taken with the design when they had originally seen it during the event the previous December.
A highly exclusive sneaker
Then, on June 25th, the big day finally arrived as the Air Jordan 1 OG Dior was made available to the public. To mark the occasion, Dior put out three posts on its Instagram page. Each one included images of models wearing the sneaker along with items from the Air Dior capsule collection. No expense was spared as one of the fashion world’s most talented photographers, Brett Lloyd, was brought in to compose the shots. For the first post, the frame was more focused on the sneaker itself, with three different profile images, two of which were simply of the lower half of the body, the models all wearing Air Dior branded shorts and socks to present a clear view of the shoe. The text accompanying the post revealed the most important piece of information – that people would now have “the opportunity to purchase the limited-edition #DiorJordan sneakers”. It directed readers to a link in the brand’s bio which took them to the Dior website. Here, further videos of the sneaker could be found alongside a paragraph of text that summed up the collaboration: “The Fall 2020 Dior men’s collection stars an unprecedented pairing: Dior and Kim Jones teamed up with Jordan Brand to create a limited edition of the Jordan 1 sneaker, marking the first-ever collaboration between the iconic basketball brand and a Parisian haute couture house.” Those hoping to buy the shoe would be treated on a “first come first served basis”, having to “register online for the opportunity to purchase a pair of ‘Air Jordan 1 OG Dior’ sneakers.” This stated the exclusivity of the collaboration, and those registering really would be lucky to have the chance to buy a pair as only 8500 were made in a subtle homage to the release of the OG Air Jordan 1 in 1985, with a further 5000 going to the luxury fashion brand’s clients and other VIPs. Others would later get the chance to purchase one of the low-top versions of the design, though this was released in even fewer numbers, with just 4700 pairs on offer, this time in honour of Christian Dior’s New Look designs, which debuted in 1947. Despite the shoe’s hefty release price of £1800, some sources suggested that more than five million people had signed up for the original high-top version alone, so the chances of getting a pair were slim. Nonetheless, 8500 lucky individuals did, some of whom were seen queueing outside the pop-up store in Selfridges London at 4am on the morning of release to collect their shoes.
The next of the three posts showed models posing in some of the collection’s smarter pieces. All the models wore the Air Dior sneaker, and the comment drew attention to the inspirational Michael Jordan. It read “Inspired by NBA legend Michael Jordan’s fabled on and off-court style, discover the full offering of pieces from the limited-edition #DiorJordan clothing and accessories collection – including easy elegant takes on tailoring”. It also stated where the items would be available: “select Dior boutiques, as well as in two pop-up stores located inside Selfridges (London) and Taikoo Li (Chengdu), starting July 8.” The same information was contained in the third post, along with more references to Brett Lloyd and the registration link. This final post showed three images of models in a more casual selection of clothes from the capsule, and a fourth of the back of a black jacket with the striking new Air Dior emblem in white across it. The iconic Jordan wings with the basketball in the middle and the words “Air Dior” written in a banner over the top had already become an established part of the collaboration, but this shot really emphasised the power of this hybrid motif. Meanwhile, the text with the post noted that the clothing collection was “highly anticipated” and mentioned Kim Jones’ part in producing it. Finally, it highlighted the “finely tuned balance between the @Jumpman23 aesthetic and the House’s heritage”, stating that the collaboration had led to “a fresh interpretation of timeless sportswear silhouettes”, a message which was to be repeated many times.
On 8th July, the whole collection became available. As one of the only places where people could buy these exclusive items, Selfridges & Co. constructed a page on its website to advertise The Selfridges Corner Shop in the brand’s London store, which would be open for just two short weeks, closing on 21st July, 2020. Like much of the hype surrounding the release, the webpage described the exclusivity of the location, calling it “the only one of its kind in the UK”, while also talking about the remarkable coming together of “storied, high-fashion couture (courtesy of Dior), with the world’s most iconic basketball sneaker (Air Jordan 1).” It also detailed some of the inspirations behind the design, stating that people had begun to refer to the sneaker as “Diordan”, as well as some of its most intriguing features, including the unique lot number patch which was sewn onto the inner collar and the accessories that came with each pair. These classy additions included matching dust bags, metal hangtags and a spare set of waxed laces, themselves in protective dust bags. Illuminating quotes from Kim Jones and Martin Lotti, Jordan Brand VP of Design, gave readers further information on the reasons behind the collaboration. Jones spoke of Jordan Brand being “iconic”, just like Dior, while Lotti referred to the importance of the connection between the two brands and their desire to expand their creative horizons. Lotti’s words summed it up best: “Our partnership with Dior offers a new look into the style of basketball and blends high-end streetwear with luxury fashion.”
A unique collection
On the same day, a video of Kim Jones and Thibo Denis was posted on the Christian Dior YouTube page and the brand’s website. It began with Jones showing off his collection of AJ1s to Denis and reminiscing about his favourites. This brief conversation gave a real insight into why the Air Jordan 1 had been chosen as the silhouette to host this collaboration – Jones was and is a genuine fan of the brand, having collected its designs from a young age. He went on to describe how he had to share the cost of his first pair with his friends, just so they could each enjoy wearing it a couple of days a week. He even showed Denis some incredibly rare colourways, including one whose only other owner is its designer, artist Hiroshi Fujiwara. Next, the video introduced Martin Lotti, who stated that the AJ1 began the culture of sneaker collecting, hence it seemed like the perfect model to use for an exclusive, limited-edition run made by two iconic brands. After this, the video went into the design and production processes, explaining that it was made to look like an authentic Air Jordan 1 using premium Italian leather. In fact, they chose materials which Nike had never used before to create a luxurious product which maintained the basketball heritage of the original design. The Air Dior capsule collection was also mentioned, with Michael Jordan’s sophisticated off-court look and street edge, along with heritage looks from both brands being cited as its main inspirations. Towards the end of the video, up-and-coming NBA star Rui Hachimura was seen modelling some of the clothing alongside the other models who had already appeared in Dior’s Instagram posts.
As well as being a follower of the Jordan Brand, Jones was a huge fan of the man himself. The day following the release of the Air Dior sneaker, British Vogue published an article about its creation from Jones’ perspective. It revealed that this was the first fashion collaboration entered into by Jordan, and that the sneaker was crafted by the experts in Dior’s leather goods factory. Delving into the relationship between Jones and Jordan, it explained that the two had met in Monaco and again in Chicago before the shoe was released, with Jones delighted to hear that Jordan was a fan of the designs. Another important person was at their first Monaco meeting as well – none other than Travis Scott, who also declared his fondness for the sneaker.
A “multifaceted artist”
On the same day that this article was put out, Scott appeared on Dior’s Instagram page. Like 25th June, 9th July was another big day for Dior’s social media as a total of four posts went out on their Instagram profile. The first was a video of Scott modelling various items from the collection while his song “Highest in the Room” played in the background. It included close ups of the Jumpman logo and the new Air Dior emblem alongside a caption calling on readers to “discover the complete #AirDior capsule composed of sneakers, ready-to-wear and accessories.” Once again, a high-profile photographer had been enlisted in the form of Hugo Scott, who is famed for his portraiture work in the fashion industry and his ability to capture his subjects’ genuine nature through spontaneity.
The Scottish photographer was also credited on two of the other posts put up that day, both of which contained more striking images of Travis Scott. Each post described the rapper as a “multifaceted artist”, while one stated that the “capsule by @MrKimJones… captures the true basketball lifestyle spirit associated with @Jumpman23”, and the other suggested that “the collection… channels inspirations from the @Jumpman23 and Dior vaults in a resolutely contemporary take on classic sportswear that looks to the NBA champion Michael Jordan’s own finely-honed style.”
The last of the four posts on 9th July took a slightly different route, focusing on the manufacturing process. A set of six images showed some of the behind-the-scenes moments from the production of the sneaker and other elements of the collection. The intriguing photographs, this time taken by Venezuelan born, Parisian-based photographer Alfredo Piola and French artist Valentin Hennequin, created an atmosphere of style, sophistication and elegance through the depiction of high-level craftsmanship. Meanwhile, the comment emphasised the combination of styles forged through the collaboration: “From tailoring to leather-working, the ultimate in #DiorSavoirFaire melds with the allure of American sportswear, as inspired by the on and off-court style of legendary basketball player Michael Jordan.” The images themselves showed some of the most notable aspects of the designs, from the masterfully tailored blazer to the delicate Air Dior buttons and the precision crafting on the swooshes.
A passion project
The very next day, Dior continued its Instagram campaign with two more posts. The first showed images by Alfredo Piola of the models from earlier posts, as well as pictures of a chic Air Dior leather pouch and wallet. As with previous posts, the comment drew on the heritage of both brands and the “fusion of basketball culture and sartorial sophistication.” It also referred to the “line’s signature logo” for the first time, a symbol which Kim Jones said gives him the feeling of luxury and travel culture from the 1960s. It went on to describe the “must-have looks” in the collection, including “bucket hats, necklaces and jacquard ties”. The second post from 10th July was a repeat of the video from the brand’s YouTube channel of Kim Jones talking to Thibo Denis about his collection of Air Jordan 1s. The comment described it as a “passion project for @MrKimJones”, while the capsule was said to be “quintessentially modern with a sense of creative freedom”.
A team fit for an extraordinary collaboration
The Jordan x Dior collaboration represented an incredible coming together of two of the world’s most well-respected brands, culminating in a groundbreaking sneaker. According to Thibo Denis, despite being made by a luxury brand, the shoe was created to appeal to sneakerheads who would be captivated by its fine details and compelling story, both of which were masterfully constructed by the collection of talented individuals that coalesced around the project. From the visionary minds of designers Kim Jones and Thibo Denis to the inspirational Michael Jordan; from the artistic talent of Hugo Scott and Brett Lloyd to the style and expertise of Travis Scott and Sean Wotherspoon, this entire group told the absorbing story of an exclusive creation that transcended the world of sportswear, leading to one of the most remarkable sneaker releases in Jordan’s history.