It’s been about a year since Don Crawley’s first official Jordan Brand collaboration was unveiled. Many would consider the Air Jordan II to be an underrated member of the Air Jordan family, often shadowed by its successor and streetwear favorite the Air Jordan III, and the franchise originator, the Air Jordan I. Crawley might beg to differ, as his debut Jumpman collaboration arrived in the form of a luxe Jordan II imagined in tonal deep blue. Not only did resell prices the Don C x Jordan II shoot through the roof following its release, but the sneaker also made the cut for our year-end Highsnobiety Crowns awards in the “Best Sneaker” category.
Well, it seems that Crawley is such a fan of the Jordan II that he made…another one. To find out more about the Just Don x Air Jordan II “Cream”, we spoke to the man himself about this latest collaboration.
There’s obviously an ongoing relationship between yourself and Jordan Brand, so I was wondering how this particular project compares to what you’ve worked on together in the past?
This has been by far the most fun. The projects have become more and more fun as they become bigger and bigger — because we can push the envelope more, we can do more — I’m just looking forward to the opportunity of the next one.
A case of learning from the previous and bringing it to the next one — always elevating the ideas…
That’s what everything is about, even life principles – it’s about learning from your experiences.
You could say it’s a natural growth in that sense, between yourself and Jordan Brand?
Exactly — and being able to have done it in the past, it’s easier to take it from point B to point C, rather than to start out from scratch on a project. So them letting me do this one, and it being the same silhouette as the last one, it was easier, but I’m looking forward to the challenge of new silhouettes.
With Jordan being a large entity and you coming to the table essentially as an individual, have they been accommodating in letting you flex your ideas?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I’m super appreciative of the parameters I was given. I love being given parameters to live in between, because it enables me to create within the proper realm and scope of the project — so I appreciate that — but I definitely feel happy that they were able to facilitate the ideas that I had, in a better manner than I could have on my own.
Talking about the functionality of the shoe — the style and luxury aspect versus actually being able to play ball in it — was that always a consideration whilst developing the product?
I’m working with Michael Jordan’s brand. It has to be a functional basketball shoe. As much as we want to make products that are lifestyle, it’s a sports-based brand; so it has to be functional on the court, and then look good secondarily.
With this particular collection, what was the main inspiration behind it?
I tried to bring together different aspects of luxury goods I had consumed in the past, and tie in the aesthetic of them on a basketball shoe. That was basically the concept, and they we tried to pay attention to every single detail on the shoe. We literally did not leave one single detail unlooked at. Even down to the packaging, I’m super hyped that Jordan Brand was able to bring all the ideas to fruition, and it’s even beyond what we imagined. I didn’t think we were gonna have a briefcase for people to walk out of the stores with.
The packaging is truly monolithic. That brings me onto the colour palette. Obviously you had the blue iteration of the Air Jordan 2 last year, so how does this one follow on from that?
I’m so happy that we executed things the way we did, because I think that it was important for us to drop the blue shoe first. It made that statement, like; “This is the Don C Blue 2. This is the statement piece.” Now, this shoe is so 2016 to me. The colour palette is so on point, it goes with everything — with the trim being the veg-tan leather, I think it’s gonna age beautifully. One thing about the things that I make, I always try to make things that are unique and have character, so I think this aspect right here is gonna allow every single person to add their own character to their shoe, as they will all age differently.
You could almost compare it to an original pair of 90’s leather Jordan’s versus a 00’s ‘Retro’ re-release — the OG is always going to age in way that the newer iterations can’t mimic.
You can see your story in the shoe.
With this specific release you’ve also been able to expand into the clothing more so than before. Was that always the idea moving forwards?
Absolutely. We were able to do it with the last release a little bit too. Thankfully Jordan was able to let me do the flight jacket, which is inspired by the old 1987 “Flight” sweatshirt that Nike produced back then. Then of course, the hat. I feel like when everybody thinks of a Just Don product, they think of a hat — so it only makes sense for the hat to come with the sneakers.
And the hat itself is more stripped back then what people would typically expect from you.
I wanted it to be relatable for everybody. I don’t think everybody could wear the python, but I feel like everybody can just throw on a quality leather baseball cap. And then it also has the veg-tan brim, so it’s gonna age just like the sneakers.
I was actually going to say that by taking the python out of the equation, you’re left with a product that’s far more timeless and less likely to fall out of relevancy.
And that’s part of the messaging with this project too. Jordan and Nike have a global reach and I don’t — so for them to work with me, I appreciate it because it’s able to put my product in the hands of many more people, people that haven’t ever bought a hat of mine. All these people are now able to get a taste of my design aesthetic and my brand aesthetic.
Obviously you’re a passionate sneakerhead, and a Jordan enthusiast in particular. So with the Chicago connection — MJ, the Bulls and all that — do ever find yourself reverting back to your teenage self; geeking out in these meetings with Nike because you’re making your own Jordan shoe, with your own name on?
All the time. And I always try to remember the feeling I had back then, looking back at old Bulls championship videos and trying to remember what was going on at the time. Sometimes I go vintage sneaker shopping, and I’ll find something I had back then, and it will make me remember the time. So yeah, I always try to keep that in mind because that’s the essence and that’s what’s gonna keep it fun.
And that’s the best reflection of yourself and your experiences too, isn’t it? The one constant throughout all of this.
I don’t want to be the guy not having fun doing this anymore. I’m still that kid that’s at the Bulls games and still drawing sneakers in my room.
To wrap it up, can we expect further collaborations from yourself and Jordan Brand in the future?
Man, I hope so. Only time will tell, and only the success of this project will help that initiative. I hope that everybody can support it — and even if you don’t like the shoe, give me some feedback. Tell me what I could have done better; so then if I ever get another shot, I can set that into play.
Also, this is of course a huge project to start the year with — but what else does 2016 hold for you?
I just want to work on more design projects. It’s going to mostly be sports related projects, because my brand is so embedded in sports culture. At all the big sporting events, I want to be able to design products around that — and I want to do more Jordans too.
Keep an eye out for the Jordan x Don C collection when it hits retailers including NikeLab 1948 London on January 30.
- Interview: Tom Winslade