For A Ma Maniére, Storytelling Always Comes First

Ahead of the release of its Air Jordan 2 drop, James Whitner discusses his journey with Jordan Brand thus far, the impact of spoken word and more.

Footwear 
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Getting a sneaker collaboration isn’t an opportunity that’s afforded to most brands or people, so when James Whitner is approached for this type of initiative, he makes it a point to execute it at the highest level. For the owner and founder of The Whitaker Group — a conglomerate that’s home to A Ma Maniére, Social Status, APB and Prosper — sneakers are more than just products to be sold, they’re vehicles to advocate for impactful change, and that’s exactly what the A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 2 “Airness” is.

The kicks serve as AMM’s third retro collaboration with Jordan Brand in the last two years and arrive as a worthy follow-up to the brand’s gender-defying Air Jordan 3 and reimagined Air Jordan 1 from 2021. When asked about if he felt pressure to impress the sneaker community for a third go-around, Whitner’s reply was nothing short of phlegmatic. “Not at all. We just focus on doing our part to serve – product is a vessel through which you get measured by the court of public opinion, but what’s most important to us is delivering our stories”, he tells HYPEBEAST. “As long as we have been able to deliver our story with impact and make the message connect to make even a semblance of a difference in our world, industry and community, we’ve done our part.”

“Anytime you get to work on an icon – you have to rise to the occasion.”

Visually, you’ll find that similar design language from the aforementioned Jordan team-ups continues on to this latest offering. The Bruce Kilgore-designed silhouette evades from its traditional leather build, and gives way to cracked leather bases, midsoles that are veiled with stealthy snakeskin textures, lace tips that encourage you to work harder and luxe, quilted interiors.

However, if A Ma Maniére has made anything clear, it’s not all about the shoes, but more so transmuting the way we absorb them. “Anytime you get to work on an icon – you have to rise to the occasion”, Whitner says. “When Jordan Brand approached us with this opportunity and the chance to tell an important story with it, it was critical for us to do justice to the history of the silhouette, its craft and artistry as the canvas to speak to “Airness” and the common journey we are on with Jordan Brand.” Everything from the shoe’s physical details to the campaign’s messaging must be meticulously thought through.

In similar fashion to its predecessors, this Air Jordan 2 collaboration has been supported with a short film titled “Your Airness” which is narrated by poet and activist Kyla Jenée Lacey. The black and white clip isn’t exactly a marketing ad for the sneakers. It entails a galvanizing spoken word piece that shines a light on the greatness and resilience that Black communities possess to live everyday and face adversity in all of its forms. “​​What good is a destination if you can’t shine along the way, and sometimes people can’t see how fly you are, because you are way above their heads”, she says with conviction. The idea to tap Lacey for this project comes from Whitner’s profound appreciation for storytelling.

“It’s how stories were and still are passed on across communities, cities, countries and continents and it’s also the medium through which the struggle is so creatively communicated.”

“Spoken word is so important – it is an art form that goes back generations”, Whitner says. “It’s how stories were and still are passed on across communities, cities, countries and continents and it’s also the medium through which the struggle is so creatively communicated. It’s how Black folks have historically put their pain in plain sight for the world to read, hear and understand but also how we’ve inspired one another to keep going.”

Very seldom will you see products and campaigns in streetwear that call for social reform, so you’ve got to salute A Ma Maniére for being a breath of fresh air in the industry and prioritizing community over commerce. “This is another chapter on a long journey we are on together with Jordan Brand and we are inspired by all who stand with us on this message” says Whitner. “We are humbled when we see and hear from folks who feel empowered by our work and see themselves reflected in it, hold it up and make it their own, in their own way.” With this sumptuous take on the Air Jordan 2, A Ma Maniére now has earned itself a trifecta of culture-shifting pieces, and you can only expect the brand to keep taking us all on this journey together.

The A Ma Maniére Air Jordan 2 collection, including apparel and footwear, will be available Wednesday, June 1 at 11am EDT via A Ma Maniére.

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