“I believe that African-American women are some of the strongest people on earth. I grew up around incredibly strong women and continue to be inspired by the female strength I see around me, mainly in my mom, wife, and daughter. I thought it was important to recognize that strength through this shoe.”
“African-American women are the most powerful women in the world.” It was this post game remark said by LeBron James that began the journey of a historical fashion & sports collaboration never done before. Not one for mincing his words on and off the court, LeBron James is no stranger to advocating for the overlooked and underrepresented communities of our time, but he has always held a special space for the women in his life who are responsible for the evolution of the man we see today.
On Friday, September 7, 2018 at 10:05am LeBron James unveiled his 16th Limited Edition women’s sneaker which sold out in a remarkable 5 minutes. The sneaker is the first James shoe designed by an all woman collective. The HFR x LeBron 16 develops from the LeBron 15 Flyknit design, but instead is cleverly adorned with gold accents and a 3D-sculpted lion head on the back with laces that ties up the ankle to compliment the main ivory colorway. The interior of the sneaker is also inscribed with each woman designers’ signature and motivating words loyalty, dignity, strength, and courage alongside leather buckles that double as both a choker or bracelet.
Spearheaded by Harlem’s Fashion Row CEO, Brandice Daniel the sneaker collaboration with James and Nike was produced to honor Black womanhood and culture as well as their organic essence of fearlessness, power, and resilience. Daniel, created her organization Harlem’s Fashion Row 11-years ago to champion the visibility of underrepresented Black designers and create equal opportunities for them just like their counterparts. Just last year, Brandice received a phone call from a colleague who reached out to her in search of Black women designers to partner with for a great project, but never revealed the brand that was in need of the collaboration.
The very next day, Brandice received a call from Nike exec Melanie Auguste who revealed LeBron James had done and interview where he expressed wanting to develop a shoe for women by women in honor of the strong women in his life. The designers Undra Duncan, Fe Noel, and Kimberly Goldson had all worked with Brandice on different projects for Harlem’s Fashion Row with such great integrity and innovation that Brandice decided to include the three Brooklyn-based women designers along for the major collaboration opportunity. “I sent three designers to Nike, and they were supposed to pick one to handle the design. But they asked for all three to collaborate on the shoe,” said Daniel. For over a year the 3 designers, Brandice, the Nike team and LeBron partnered on the design to capture the perfect aesthetic. Inspired by James’ mother, wife, and daughter the collaboration invoked the bonding of sisterhood as Goldson, Duncan, and Noel developed the shoe.
“This was LeBron’s ode to woman. The shoe is about how much he respects and loves us.” said Noel about the design experience.
HFR kept the big reveal for their bi-annual fashion and style gala set at New York’s Capitale in partnership with Nike and King James himself last week. With the dress code of black tie and Nikes Daniel opened the night addressing the guests on the importance of being a catalyst for change by elevating Black designers and demand inclusivity as a wide-accepted standard throughout the fashion industry. “...It may have started with a sole fashion show, but its importance and significance has grown way past its runway productions: It’s a community of like-minded people steadfast in their mission to prove there is no shortage of Black creatives.” Daniels said. The annual style awards and fashion presentation kicked off in a packed house of celebs, taste-makers, and industry notables culminating with 4 fashion presentations, a 2-course dinner, and 4 award presentations. This years prolific honorees were Jason Rembert recipient of “Stylist of the Year”, Bethann Hardison recipient of “The Trailblazer Award”, Dapper Dan recipient of “The Lifetime Maverick Award” and LeBron James recipient “Icon 360 Award”.
“I thought it was important to lend that platform to a group of people that I believe are undervalued,” he says. “I want women to know that they are recognized, that there are people who appreciate them and know that they are facing odds that others are not having to face. In spite of those odds, I want them to know that they can succeed and create the positive change that we need more of right now.”
The entire evening was filled with surprise celebrations like the video highlight that featured Floyd Mayweather and LL Cool J paying homage to Harlem phenom designer Dapper Dan before his acceptance of the “Lifetime Maverick Award”. In a pair of diamond-encrusted sunglasses with dress shoes lined in silver for his Black Tie & Nike dress-code, Dan expressed his immense gratitude for HFR on the red carpet before the ceremony stating, “When I first came out to the underground after 20 years when nobody knew about me or where I was at, they were the first ones to reach out and ask me to be apart of a panel of young designers coming up. That was the most exciting thing of my life. The outpouring of gratitude culminated on an emotional high for the night when founder Brandice Daniel pausing through a wave of happy tears presented LeBron James his “Icon 360 Award”, “This one,.... This is probably one of the most amazing things to ever happen to me in my life.” In true admiration James carrying daughter Zhuri in his arms and wearing Moscot sunglasses, dressed in a Thom Browne shorts suit with the new Nike Element React 87 sneakers took the stage to accept his award thanking all the women in his life — his mother Gloria who had him at 16 years old, his wife Savannah who has been by his side both on and off the court literally and his daughter Zhuri who is responsible for making the 250 pound small forward a stronger more sensitive man. James humbly thanked the women in his life — for being examples of how African-American women are the most powerful in the world. He concluded his speech giving his personal thoughts on Nike’s latest campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick stating, “Last but not least, I stand for anybody that believes in change. I stand for anybody who believes in a positive attitude and positive manner, and I believe in and stand with Nike everyday, all day.
This historical campaign partnership between Nike, HFR, & LeBron James is a ground breaking accomplishment that is aligned with mission to control and share the full authentic narrative of the Black experience while changing the marginalized status quo. HFR’s mission has always been centered around creating a robust community of change makers who are focused on the creation of inclusive and equal opportunities for Black designers and creatives. With 11 years of experience amidst the industry of fashion it is abundantly clear that organization HFR is making international progress amongst the fabric of the industry dismantling the old ways of selective business practices and awakening corporate commercial brands to the valued inclusivity of Black creatives. The inner workings of their progress as an organization has been relatively low key until now and with Nike as their newest corporate campaign collaboration and their success has only just begun.