Young Black Women Impacting the Sneaker IndustryNov 14, 2020 08:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
There have been some big shifts within the sneaker industry over the past decade to not only cater to women but to have women in the industry start the trend and become part of the design process. Sneaker culture has always been considered a “boys club” but with celebrities like Rihanna, Serena Williams and Beyonce creating their own with large sneaker brands, that has changed.
There are more Black women demanding respect from the industry for their influence and collaboration. These four Black women have gained visibility and continued the conversation on gender inclusivity in the sneaker industry:
Vashtie Kola, often shown as Va$htie, is a New York filmmaker, director, creative consultant and designer. She's highly respected in the music industry for her music video work with Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, Theophilus London, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake.
Kola was the first woman to collaborate with the Nike Jordan brand and design her very own Air Jordan. The Air Jordan 2 Retro was a collaboration in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Air Jordan 2.
Los Angeles- born Aleali May is a stylist, fashion blogger, model and sneaker designer. She boasts of more than 300 pairs of sneakers. May has modelled for Adidas and styled celebrities like Kendrick Lamar, Tinashe and Lil Yachty.
Even though May is the second woman to collaborate with the Air Jordan brand in its 34-year history, it is not to be overlooked that she was the first woman to design a unisex sneaker for the brand. The “Air Jordan 1 x Aleali Mays” is homage to her home city with its multi-color, upper- blue-Nike “Swoosh,”, white-midsole, and white-sole design. She also collaborated with the brand to create the “Aleali May x Air Jordan 6 Millennial Pink” sneaker and teamed up with WNBA superstar Maya Moore for the “Maya Moore x Aleali May Jordan Court Lux Collection” in 2018.
Creative strategist and sneaker designer Jazerai Allen-Lord began her career in the sneaker industry as a journalist and social media manager at KicsOnFire. From there, she went on to make a name for herself in the fashion industry with her own streetwear line.
Allen-Lord has become a strong voice for women in the sneaker community and worked with New Balance to train their global employees on how to stay authentic, the future of fashion and marketing best practices for 2017. She was part of Reebok Classic’s It’s A Man’s World campaign and designed a collaborative sneaker with the brand. “Working with a female designer who understood how to bring my design to life and truly listen to what was important made the process that much more impactful. It was two women coming together to create a vision for a shoe that symbolizes empowerment,” said Allen-Lord.
From North London, Aida Kiraya is the founder of a sneaker customization brand called Afro Kickz that focuses on creating designs inspired by traditional African imagery and contemporary Black culture. Afro Kickz, born out of the love she had for sneakers growing up, merged with the love she now has for her culture as an adult.
Kiraya’s work won her the LadBible’s Custom competition series and allowed her to work with the Arsenal soccer players to customize sneakers for their fans. Kiraya has worked with major brands like Adidas and customized sneakers for celebrities like British comedian Michael Dapaah and musician and YouTube star Dainá.
Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachlor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies. She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.