JB Designer Tom Luedecke Discusses the Air Jordan 2011
SN: Now that he’s not playing anymore, how hands-on is Michael regarding the design of his yearly signature shoe?
TL: On the signature shoe, he’s very hands-on. Usually every three months or so, the team will check in with him, show him progress, get insights, get feedback.
SN: Does he still get involved with the performance aspect, or at this point, is he mainly concerned with the look of the shoe?
TL: He’s absolutely involved.
SN: So is MJ still out on the court wear-testing his new shoes?
TL: Not so much wear-testing them on the court, but he definitely puts them on to see if he has fit concerns or feel concerns. He might say it’s feeling too wide or it’s feeling too loose or it’s not snug enough around the ankle. Things like that will come up and then we’ll address them, but we also have a stable of athletes at company headquarters who go through round after round of wear-tests, so we have ten or twenty athletes on the court who are giving us immediate feedback on it. Then we also have people like Dwyane Wade who are currently playing in the shoe also giving us feedback. Then, you accumulate all that to make sure that you address the key points every round.
SN: Since Dwyane Wade is the shoe’s current representative in the NBA, is he heavily involved with the process as well?
TL: It’s interesting with him because he has a very unique foot morphology, so we have to address his needs very directly and he’s very involved in the fit and the underfoot performance, and he really deeply cares about performance. On the aesthetic side, he just loved the shoe when we showed it to him, so that’s a great benefit. But it really started with MJ’s insight when we showed him the raw concept of the multi-layered midsole technology. When he saw it, it conjured up thoughts of a warrior getting ready for battle and choosing his weapon. He also talked about the idea of the home game and the away game and how they’re very different. How you approach the away game much more aggressively.
And to us, it was a great starting point to say – what if we take this inspiration of a warrior as an aesthetic, and how would it look in a clean and sophisticated way, knowing that Air Jordans are always about great style married with great science. The shoe has beautiful embosses that are inspired by the warrior. The perforation pattern on the shoe is inspired by the stars and the star maps that warriors used to read before they went into battle. Just paying attention to every single detail. Some inspiration comes from motor racing which is also somewhat of a battle as well. It all leads in and a lot of the details on the shoe are based on the conversation around the warrior and what it means to a basketball player and then driving that all the way through. And we’re always keeping in mind that it’s Jordan. It’s sophisticated. It’s beautiful. It’s high design with an eye to every detail down to stitch patterns.