Tennis culture is undergoing a transformation with women at the forefront

The New York Times – Life/Style – Two of the biggest tennis fanatics in the world National Women’s Basketball Association (WNBA) had a win well before the start of the season. Dearica Hamby of the Las Vegas Aces and Satou Sabally of the Dallas Wings each received a pair Air Jordan 36 PEs (Exclusive to gamers) Designed by Melody Ahsani, something as hard to get for a collector as a championship ring, because it won’t be sold to the public. “Melody Ahsani’s Air Jordan 36 was a big deal because it’s really hard to get people to care about basketball shoes these days. But she managed to bring that energy back,” said Brendan Dunn, host Full size runningA talk show about this type of footwear.

Ehsani, 42, with her long dark hair and two blonde streaks, wears a series of gold rings and bracelets with symbols of her Persian heritage, long nails in every color of the rainbow, and almost always, a pair of sneakers. Recently she designed products for her husband Faroush’s tour and band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, before announcing on Instagram in July that she was expecting her first child. She also runs her own streetwear brand, named after her. And as Foot Locker’s first female creative director, she was the lead stylist for a high-end basketball shoe. That’s rare in this industry, where women are often asked to “dye” or choose new colors for big brand models.

Some WNBA players have teamed up with giants in the industry, and some like Brenna Stewart (Exclusively with the puma) and Candace Parker (with the Adidas), have unique stairs. However, b Nike and other giants in the industry, There was little mention of women in the development of basketball shoesA huge segment of the footwear industry and the creative area that is central to the tradition of sneaker culture.

Nike did not provide specific data on the women who led the design, and the company is still facing a gender discrimination class action lawsuit in 2018 by former employees who claim women were paid less than their male counterparts, denied positions. key players at Nike and were also subject to inappropriate behavior by superiors.

Performance shoes may not be the sales phenomenon they once were, but Jordan releases are still a huge part of the resale market. And there’s a thriving industry selling sneaker design mythology. Photo books about the couples became bestsellers and their advertising campaigns became a staple. Admired fashion designers appear in podcasts and documentaries about creativity, and give TED talks that go viral. To appeal to a younger audience, major museums have promoted exhibitions that present sneakers as art.

After Ehsani’s model was introduced during the NBA Finals in June, when the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum wore them before Game 2, she reflected on her journey from high school player and NBA intern to stylist. “I slowly progressed until I had the opportunity to work on a performance shoe,” Ahsani wrote in a social media post, adding that the relationship between Tinker Hatfield, the Nike designer behind many Air Jordan icons, and Michael Jordan It was his biggest dream.

Most conversations about sneaker design begin with Hatfield and Jordan, whose 16-edition collaboration from 1993 to 2003 set the standard for how performance sneakers can be a lifestyle. At Jordan’s behest, and often against the dictates of Nike executives, Hatfield made basketball shoes using non-traditional materials, prompting even the sport’s converts to buy (many, many) pairs.

Hatfield included leather on the Jordan 11 because Jordan said he wanted a sneaker so beautiful you could wear it with a tuxedo. In 1996, R&B group Boyz II Men paired the stairs with boys’ tuxedos at an awards show.

In 2021, when the The design museum, in London, set up an exhibition to show how sneakers “have become cultural icons of our time,” enthused Fiona Adams, Reebok’s vice president of footwear design from 1990 to 2000. She oversaw the work of stylists who became the equivalent of industry legends, and she longed for their work to be recognized. . She created an in-house training program to train tennis designers (instead of designing only in 2D or relying on 3D computer models), and she noted that her experience as a cobbler enabled technical innovations, such as creating an innovative aerobic shoe front that was, she says, the first performance shoe to use a zipper. Adams admitted she was unhappy with the exhibition, because only one woman’s work was on display: that of Judy Close, who designed Shaquille O’Neal’s sneakers for Reebok in 1992. It was very, very disappointing.”

Ehsani noted that there aren’t many standards for women who have worked on models for an actor only. “I’m even ashamed that I don’t know anyone else.” At Jordan, his design went through Kelsey Amy, a color stylist who was a mediator between Ehsani’s vision and the Nike manufacturers. Amy worked with NBA and WNBA players on Jordan player exclusives, but said she “never knew this job existed” until she landed a marketing internship at Nike in 2013, which showed her the company’s design hierarchy. She said she was adopted by other designers, but there wasn’t much industry support: “I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s an established network.”

Suzette Henry is trying to make it easier for women and people of color to get into performance shoe design. As the founder and instructor of the Pensole Shoe Design Academy, she teaches future designers how to design and use the materials featured in these models. After working in materials research and design for Guess, Skechers and then Nike, Jordan approached Henry in 2000 to become the brand’s first materials stylist. Perhaps her most famous contribution was stingray skin, which she developed after a documentary inspired her to create a sustainable alternative to mass production. After several conversations with oceanographers and a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, Henry’s synthetic “skin” was incorporated into several Jordan retro models and special projects. (Michael Jordan was so enamored of the material that he used it in his golf bag.)

Henry said the Nike has always attracted qualified female designers to take leadership positions in performance design, but there is a barrier at the board level.. “This Sexism Pure,” he said, adding that many senior executives are men who tend to promote other men. “Our industry is guilty, like most of corporate America, of being comfortable with people who look alike.”

As sales of basketball shoes dwindled, designers were able to design other types of low-impact performance shoes and sports equipment. Lululemon, the multibillion-dollar sportswear company, announced in March that it would launch running and training shoes, Adidas is selling its Stella McCartney line very well, and Allison Felix, the retired Olympic sprinter and former Nike user, has her own shoe brand. , to finish

Despite few advancements for female designers, Ahsani said designing unique products for a basketball star was still her dream. In that vision, she couldn’t decide whether LeBron James, Jay Mornette or girls’ high school basketball phenom JoJo Watkins would be her Hatfield Michael Jordan. “I don’t even have preferences,” Ahsani promised, adding that she was “so eager” for the opportunity no matter who the player was. Then he used Nike’s famous slogan: “Let me do it, like, give me a chance.”

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