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NBA All-Star weekend returned to Chicago for the first time in more than 30 years. In celebration of the exciting festivities making its way back to the Windy City (Feb. 14-16), American Express teamed up with Chicago designer, Don C, to launch a limited-edition sneaker. The Nike Air Force 1 Hi Just Don pays homage to his Chicago roots with the “Amex Blue” custom sneaker resembling the blue and red found on the city’s flag. The blue appears on the smooth leather on the uppers while a tumbled blue leather is on the strap. Hints of red can be found on different areas of the shoe, including the Just Don heel branding.
To commemorate the sneaker’s release and the unique collaboration, Don C sat down for an intimate chat with former SportsCenter host Cari Champion. During the American Express Experience complete with an exclusive menu and cocktails, Don C expressed his excitement around sneaker life reaching the point of doing collaborations with a major brand such as American Express and big businesses respecting and recognizing the work of small businesses. A small group of about 150 guests also learned more about his streetwear background and how his upbringing in Chicago played a major part in his work, especially his latest sneaker.
Don C first began his streetwear brand and store, RSVP Gallery, with fellow Chicago designer Virgil Abloh (Louis Vuitton’s Men’s Artistic Director) 10 years ago. The brand’s apparel was based on the designers’ experiences while traveling the world alongside Kanye West. They wanted to give back to their city and offer Chicagoans a taste of what they were exposed to in other parts of the world. Through the power of social media and “community members” as he considers his customers, the brand has grown tremendously through the years and is a staple in the Chicago area.
Then, in 2017, Don C was tapped by Nike to design a luxury limited-edition sneaker for the brand’s Air Force 1 35th anniversary. He gave a nod to the Buck 50 hats, a popular accessory in Chicago, with the Just Don x Nike Air Force 1’s touches of gold hardware and snakeskin. Since that time, Don C has collaborated with Nike on other designs including the Air Jordan 1, but he has returned to the iconic Air Force design with the latest offering, once again taking inspiration from Air Force 2 and 3, since in his words “the 1 gets enough shine.”
The Nike Air Force 1 Hi Just Don, which retails for $200, were available exclusively online to American Express Card Members on Thursday (Feb. 13), and sold out in just three minutes.
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To celebrate @nbaallstar weekend, I’ve collaborated with @americanexpress to present this limited edition Nike Air Force 1 Hi 🥶 - Growing up in Chicago, basketball has always been a huge part of my life so I’m excited the sports biggest weekend is back in my City! #nbaallstar #amexambassador
With the success of his sneaker partnerships, he continues to focus on building up the Just Don brand and dropping more exclusive apparel and sneakers for “community members” to love and enjoy. Sports, style, heritage, and good principles are his current focus areas as he works to bring exclusivity to the community and make the community feel special. When asked what’s on the horizon, he said “using the growth that I’ve learned from entities bigger than my own to apply to my own organization and growing my organization to an entity as big as American Express.”
New York's Spring Studios may have been dripped in white backdrops during NYFW, but the flavor was anything but bland during LaQuan Smith's Fall/Winter 2020 show. Presented alongside the launch of the new Moët & Chandon Limited-Edition Signature bottlings, the edgy but benevolent designer presented all-black looks that would make any fast fashion soldier switch over to the luxurious side.
Puffer jackets with skirts to match arrived down the runaway with baggy tracksuits, giving the audience an array of looks for the cozy girl all the way down to the trendy posh woman. Speaking with VIBE backstage, Smith shared how the importance of confident women inspired his recent unveiling. "I just wanted to do something that was super confident and really progressive," he explained. "I think that I have a really true sense of who my woman is at this point so right now I'm really having fun being able to design for a woman who is super comfortable in her own skin. This strong sense of elegance, glamour, and confidence is like the woman that I'm designing for so that was sort of the mood and the attitude for this season's collection."
The conscious mix of a free spirit and earnest attitude is something Smith has conjured since his early days on the scene. After making his NYFW debut in 2010, Smith has attracted the biggest names in entertainment on the runway like Rihanna, Cassie, Serena Williams, Nicki Minaj and recently supermodel Winnie Harlow. With such dominating and powerful women in Smith's orbit, it makes it easy to see just how spot-on his looks are.
But famous ladies aren't Smith's only muses. His show consisted of women of color—specifically Sudanese and Asian models, which made a big splash on social media. There was also a plus-size model who rocked the hell out of a little black dress.
"I'm inspired by a woman who appreciates getting dressed up in the day," Smith added. "Not even having a reason to dress up, just 'Yes!' Just 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I'm really about somebody who just enjoys the thrill of dressing up." But Smith's goal at the end of the day is to bring back chic demeanor of yesterday, where fashionistas would dress to the nines on Casual Fridays.
"I want to revive those moments again where women would wear skirt suits during the day to go to work," he said while pointing to his boiled wool jackets and matching pencil skirts. "They can transition from day to evening. I want to be able to bring back that level of glamour from an American perspective because I'm from New York City and this is the city that made me, this is the city that inspired me so for me to just be able to design and create off of all of my inspirations and my upbringing is a thrill."
Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It" closed the show but the celebratory vibes continued with guests like Tinashe, Delilah Hamlin, Amelia Hamlin, ASAP Ferg and Renell Medrano, Ryan Jamaal Swain, Young Paris, Patrick Starr, and Cyn Santana enjoying Moët & Chandon.
See more moments from the show below.Tinashe A$AP Ferg and Renell Medrano Ryan Jamaal Swain Jonathan Mannion Patrick Starr
Before NYFW 2020 kicked off, Harlem's Fashion Row (HFR) celebrated designers April Walker, Dapper Dan, and stylist Misa Hylton, three of black veterans in the fashion industry. Held at New York City's Sony Music Hall (Feb. 6), HFR honored the fashion pioneers with awards and an evening of music and performances with family, friends, influencers, and supporters in attendance.
"Every time I think about the disparities for designers of color in this industry, for people of color in this industry, it breaks my heart," said HFR founder Brandice Daniel on how and why the event came to be. "For me, it was 'let me just do my part,' right? Not become the solution but be part of the solution."
With decades of experience and fashion portfolios that have moved the culture forward, Dan, Walker, and Hylton have broken barriers within the industry as people of color. In between DJ Envy and Olivia Dope setting the vibe on the 1s and 2s throughout the Ciroc-sponsored night, the Allen Cathedral Choir and MarkMorrisDance dancers performed and paid homage to the hip-hop musical giants and honorees.
Notable attendees include LaTonya Blige-DaCosta, Essence Global Beauty Director, Julee Wilson, Ezinne Kwubiri, H&M North America's Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Angelique Miles, Fashion Bomb Daily's Claire Sulmers.
Founded in 2007, Harlem's Fashion Row "is a social company that provides a voice for multicultural designers; through a creative platform that enables these designers to sell and present their collections to key leaders within the fashion industry" and celebrates "the fashion community that reflects the culture and personal experience of multicultural designers."
Scroll down to see more pics from the pre-New York Fashion Week event.