This year at Laced, we’re celebrating the best of female sneaker culture. From Tiffany Beers, who engineered the Nike Mag, to Chitose Abe, the brains behind the iconic partnership between Nike x Sacai, as well as the community members from every corner of the globe who club together with one thing in common: an intrinsic love for
In a traditionally male-dominated industry, women are pushing for positive change, and I hope this Guide will serve as a testament to the talent, spirit and drive of the women shaping sneaker culture today.
Chitose Abe. Sacai Director + Nike Collaborator
Sacai has produced some of the most intriguing silhouette’s with Nike over the last few years. However, not many people know that the founder is a female named Chitose Abe. Abe is responsible for hybrid creations like the Vaporwaffle and LDN Waffle. Both of which were instantly catapulted into the Sneaker of the Year conversation.
Chitose Abe was born in Japan and founded the luxury fashion brand way back in 1999. Abe had extensive experience within the industry before founding Sacai; however, working with some of our favourite brands before the legendary Japanese label was born.
Abe began her journey through fashion as a pattern cutter at Comme des Garçons, working directly under founder Rei Kawakubo. She would move on to be a part of the design team at Junya Watanbe before eventually setting up Sacai. Abe would spend ten years honing her craft with Sacai, finally receiving an invite to show at Paris Fashion Week. Sacai and Abe then began global domination, breaking into the European market with their second season; the iconic Colette in Paris would even stock the label.
It is also worth noting that Abe owns 100 percent of her business. Having full ownership gives Abe absolute control and freedom over the creative process at Sacai. This power, in turn, gives her the ability to refuse and accept collaborations such as the Nike partnership we see flourishing before us.
Chitose Abe is one of the most influential figures in fashion; what she has built from the ground up is truly inspirational and should motivate both males and females to follow their dreams.
Melody Ehsani. Designer + Sneaker Collaborator
Melody Ehsani has a portfolio that many sneakerheads wish they had. Having collaborated with Jordan Brand and Reebok, it is no secret that Ehsani is one of the most influential women in the sneaker industry.
Ehsani was born and raised in Los Angeles to a traditional Persian family and looked set to work within Law as she got older. Fortunately for us all, though, Ehsani decided to follow her heart and pursue a career in design. We have seen Ehsani design jewellery, apparel, accessories and, of course, sneakers.
Ehsani was first granted the opportunity to work on a Reebok sneaker collaboration. She created a leopard print Freestyle Lo and a limited edition Question Mid, Allen Iverson’s signature sneaker. Both sneakers gave the sneaker community an insight into who Melody Ehsani was. Neither had the impact Ehsani’s upcoming Jordan 1 would have, though.
Taking over the less popular Air Jordan 1 Mid, Ehsani had her work cut out to generate hype around the silhouette. What Ehsani produced, however, was one of the most significant Jordan 1 collaborations we have seen. Nicknamed ‘Fearless’, the sneaker shares Ehsani’s message of female empowerment and self-expression. Both sneakers dressed in different colour-block schemes to highlight individuality. A quote around the midsole and a jewel watch on the laces finalises the sneakers design. Collectors went crazy for the silhouette. The shoe now fetches anywhere around the £1000 mark. This price makes it one of the most expensive Jordan 1 Mids of all time.
If anybody doubted female influence in the sneaker industry before, the Melody Ehsani Air Jordan 1 Mid solidified just how important women are to the sneaker scene.
Jazerai Allen-Lord. Sneaker Strategist + Sneaker Collaborator
Jazerai Allen-Lord has spent years within the sneaker industry, working on everything from sneaker strategy to designing and everything in-between. Jazerai’s importance within the sneaker industry was confirmed in 2020 when Business Insider featured her as one of the Top 18 Women Transforming Sneakers. Reebok also honoured Jazerai’s status as one of the most influential sneakerheads around. They offered her the opportunity to work on a Club C with them.
In her latest venture, True to Size, we saw Jazerai build New Balance’s Black History Month collection strategy. The ‘Inspire the Dream’ campaign saw the focus land on NBA legend Kawhi Leonard, his career and the community he came from. A project that saw massive success, Jazerai and TTS partnered with a Boys and Girls club from an underserved community in LA with over 300 youth members. People must lead the charge on change within these underserved communities, something Jazerai prides herself in doing with TTS throughout these extensive campaigns.
We cannot wait to see what 2021 has instore for Jazerai Allen-Lord and True to Size.
Aleali May. Stylist + Jordan Collaborator
Aleali May is a name synonymous with the sneaker community, and for a good reason. She has been a part of collaborations with Jordan Brand since 2017, producing some of the most intriguing Jordan colourways in the process. She is one of only a handful of women with a Jordan collaboration (more on that below) but was the first woman to design a unisex Jordan sneaker. May also boasts a collection of over 300 sneakers, making her a true OG in the game.
It all started for Aleali May back in 2010, working part-time at the Louis Vuitton store in Chicago whilst completing her Marketing studies. This JOB led to her landing a gig at RSVP Gallery, run by Chi-Town legends Don C and Virgil Abloh. May would return to LA with this invaluable experience and eventually lead to styling roles with Kendrick Lamar, Lil Yachty, Jaden Smith, Jeezy, and Wiz Khalifa.
May’s strong connection with Jordan led to the brand reaching out in 2017 and offering her the opportunity to collaborate with the legendary brand. The combination of authenticity and the inspiration that Aleali May had become to young women made this collaboration one of the best we have seen. May released a fresh take on the Air Jordan 1 Shadow in October 2017. The pair drew inspiration from her father and uncles wardrobes of starter jackets and house slippers. The mix of materials such as corduroy and chenille made this version truly one-of-a-kind and, as mentioned above, was the first female created unisex Jordan ever.
May has released another Air Jordan 1 and an Air Jordan 6 over the last few years, consistently dropping some of the best Air Jordan iterations.
Vashtie Kola. Jordan Designer + DJ
As mentioned above, Vashtie Kola is the other female designer with a Jordan Brand collaboration. Vashtie was actually the first-ever female to have the honour of a Jordan collab in her portfolio. But the partnership did not come easy, with Vashtie slugging it out within the industry for years. A true trailblazer, Vashtie Kola set the scene for your favourite female sneakerheads today.
Vashtie has been a force within the streetwear community for some time, working at Stussy in the early days and frequenting the Supreme store long before its popularity boom. Kola would become a director for Box Fresh Pictures and also modelled for Billionaire Boys Club.
In 2006, L.A Reid would bring Vashtie on as a director of creative services, essentially putting all trust in Vashtie to ensure Def Jam remained fresh and stayed in tune with what was thought of as cool. From here, Vashtie would become a DJ, setting up a now-legendary party called ‘1992’. The party would receive awards and featured in The New York Post, i-D, and The New York Times. The party attracted serious A-Listers, with the likes of Jay Z frequenting the event often.
Jordan Brand collaboration
By 2010, Vashtie had been offered the chance to work on a collaborative sneaker with Jordan Brand. With no prior involvement in Basketball, it was unheard of for somebody in Vashtie’s position to get this chance. We saw Vashtie take over the Air Jordan 2, covering the sneaker in a lavender hue. The sneaker was the first time a female influencer had the opportunity to create a silhouette, and Vashtie was the perfect fit.
In recent years, Vashtie has been involved with Drake’s career. She directed and starred in an art film for the hit song Hotline Bling. Vashtie really did show all of us, male and female, how to earn a career within the industries we are passionate about. She is a true inspiration to anybody looking to go against the grain and set out their own unique path to success.
Olivia Kim. Creative Vice President + Nike Collaborator
Olivia Kim is one of the most versatile people in fashion today. Kim boasts a significant portfolio of Creative Director roles and producing one of my all-time favourite Nike collaborations. Kim started at the boutique store Opening Ceremony, where founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon created a role specifically for Kim. She worked there for ten years, finding her feet as a Creative/Buyer as Kim had no prior retail experience. But what Kim did have was unbelievable talent in spotting trends and building interest around a brand.
In February 2013, Kim would have another role created specifically for her at luxury department store Nordstrom. Vice President of Creative Projects. Over these last twenty-plus years, Kim has had an incredible ability to build hype around a brand or store whilst thinking of fun projects that will engage customers. Thanks to this impressive CV, Nike allowed Kim the opportunity to create a capsule of sneakers.
The Nike Collection
The capsule saw five Nike silhouettes reimagined by Kim. We saw an Air Force 1, Air Max 98, Air Footscape, Air Jordan 4, and my personal favourite, the Air Mowabb, all release. The sneaker packs nickname was ‘No Cover’; this was to indicate the pack shoes were for everybody no matter what size you were. Kim mentioned that she always had issues obtaining sneakers in her size, so this was her inspiration behind dropping a full-size run of her iconic collab. The legendary colourways were a nod towards Kim’s New York City roots and the 90s. The melting pot of Hip-Hop, Rave and DIY culture are all recognised in Kim’s collab.
Every sneaker has a powerful backstory, but the most hyped of the lot was the Air Jordan 4. The blacked-out sneaker swapped out its usual leather upper and replaced it with pony hair. Kim also swapped out the Jumpman logo on the heel for the OG Nike Air logo. The sneaker had a real archival feel around it and became a must-have for many sneakerheads. Nike took notice, too. They later released the Air Jordan 4 ‘Black Cat’, which drew clear inspiration from Kim’s sneaker.
Kim has moulded a career for herself through hard work and natural talent within creative spaces. Her eye is unmatched, making her truly unique. I hope that Nike will bring Kim back in for another sneaker collaboration in the not distant future.
Tiffany Beers. Nike Innovator + Engineer
Tiffany Beers is perhaps one of the most underrated female figures in the sneaker community. Beers went in a slightly different direction than some of our other women shaping sneakers, coming at it from an engineering standpoint rather than creative. Tiffany would graduate college with a Bachelor of Science in Plastics Engineering. She would then land a job at Rubbermaid Home Products. Two years later, Nike would bring Beers in as a Product Development Engineer, eventually ending up the sportswear giant’s Engineering Director.
Beers would be a part of some massive sneaker moments for the company, assisting in creating the Nike Air Yeezy and the iconic Tom Sachs collection. Tiffany would also link up with design royalty Tinker Hatfield, focusing their energy on creating auto-lacing shoes. The duo would create the Nike Air Mag (2016), the sneaker from Back to the Future.
Tiffany Beers would ultimately leave Nike after thirteen successful years to join Elon Musk over at Tesla. But the mark Beers left on the sneaker community will forever be engrained in history.
Who runs the World?
There you have it, a breakdown of the Women reshaping the sneaker industry brick by brick. It is essential to shed light on these incredible journeys each of these has been through in the sneaker and streetwear industry. Hopefully, this article is as inspirational for everybody reading as it was for me writing it.