At a press event previewing the Jordan Brand offerings for spring last week in Los Angeles, the Nike subset's president, Larry Miller, was asked which of the many new projects he found to be most exciting. Though the label has collaborations with Drake's OVO, an expansion of its Russell Westbrook partnership and a pretty amazing apparel collection in the works, Miller pointed to a previously underserved market. "I think the women's product is taking us to a different place," he said. "This is the first time we are really showing some love to that female customer, letting them know we are doing product specifically for them." To wit, the brand released its "Season of Her" collection just a few hours prior: 10 different pastel colorways of the Jordan 1, priced at $160 per style.
This spring will see the beginning of a concerted, long-term effort for Jordan Brand to build out and sustain a women's business, marked by the release of three exclusive women's silhouettes. Headed up by Vice President and General Manager of Women's Andrea Perez, the team includes an "extended family" like stylist, model and influencer Aleali May, WNBA player Maya Moore and other women who have long been fans of the brand. They serve as sounding boards for a design team that, according to Miller, is mostly made up of women.
"The folks who have the responsibility of making sure we have the right product going into the market are women," he said. Jordan Brand representatives clarified that while the broader team is a mix, the people closest to the women's business — as well as the footwear, development and design leads — are all women.
For Valentine's Day next month, said product will include an all-red, suede version of the Air Jordan VIII, which will release February 9 for $190. With a foot bed printed with rose petals, the quotes "loves me," "loves me not" on the inside of the wrap, as well as packaging that allows for personal letter writing, it's a fully conceptualized gift for any female sneakerhead. Later in the month, on Feb. 27, the brand will also release its women's style with Virgil Abloh's Off-White for $160.
"In our company, we say that product is king," Perez said, wearing a pair of the Air Jordan VIII Valentine styles. "In our case, product is queen." She continued by explaining that designing the new offering means keeping three different consumer needs in mind: sport, street style and fashion.
The sport customer, like Moore, wants the best performance on the market; the street style customer wants the OG Jordan styles, but now made for her. This means sometimes going further than just expanding sizing, but building a new last for classic styles as in the "Season of Her" collection. Finally, the fashion fan wants the spirit of Jordan, but also has her eye on — and pushes to be ahead of — runway trends. "We are able to reintroduce styles that didn't resonate with women before in ways that they will resonate [now]," Perez said, pointing to the the sneakers she was wearing that were a take on the classic VIII.
With the brand now more than 30 years old, the question becomes "Why now?" — and, of course, "What took so long?" Puma doubled down on its women's offerings in 2015 and 2016, most notably signing Rihanna and Kylie Jenner to lucrative contracts. Reports on the success of those moves have surfaced time after time. But now, it's Jordan Brand's moment to shine.
"We tried it before, but we just weren't ready," Miller said. "We didn't have the proper distribution for it; we didn't have the proper design talent. Now I feel like we can do it and do it right. We have the resources and be ability and the focus to do it the right way."