The Nike headquarters in New York has a rooftop garden. There’s a giant Swoosh made out of flowers up there and it’s caught the attention of the women that just designed a special edition LeBron 16. Brandice Daniel, Fe Noel, Undra Celeste and Kimberly Goldson, who just got the flicks off, notice the big check and talk about wishing they had a drone so they could body another quick photoshoot.
Daniel brought this trio together at Harlem’s Fashion Row, which gives multicultural women designers resources to bring their visions to life. They just made history as the first group of women to design a LeBron James signature sneaker made specifically for women.
LeBron, who has been on a mission to unite the country, has also been using his voice to elevate African-American women and give them the recognition they deserve.
“I believe that African American women are some of the strongest people on earth,” he said. “I grew up around some amazingly strong women and am inspired by the strength I see around me, including my mom, wife and daughter.”
“He had the quote about black women being the strongest people on the planet,” his lead designer, Jason Petrie, tells SLAM.”I remember looking at Meline Khachatourian when he answered that question and we were like, ‘Holy shit, we gotta do something with that.’ It started with HFR and it turned into this amazing thing. We opened the design up to that team and transformed the shoe.”
Noel, Celeste and Goldson have been saying that they chose to be collaborative instead of being competitive. They worked with Khachatourian to come together, each adding their own details to the 16. “We all have very different aesthetics,” Celeste says. “We ended up in a very different place than where we began.”
They began with the standard LeBron 16. They ended up creating two features that you won’t see on any other LeBron 16 this season.
The first is a belt around the collar that can be worn as a necklace or a bracelet. Khachatourian notes how the designers wanted to have a piece of this shoe with them even if they aren’t rocking them. Made out of premium leather, it has adjustable straps so it can even be worn as a leg piece.
The other new detail is on the heel, where a 3D molded lion sits, looking like it’s ready to attack.
“We sculpted [the lion] to the specifics of an art piece,” Khachatourian says. “You will see this only on this shoe. It’s a symbol of power. We wanted to make it the most powerful thing we could do.”
While Khachatourian shares the overall design aspects, the three designers follow along intently. They’re hype, giddy with smiles and at the same time, very aware of what’s going on and the magnitude of the moment.
They each share when this became real for them. It wasn’t when they got the call to be on the project or when they got to meet up with LeBron or when the first images leaked on social media. It was when their families got to tell them how proud they were.
“Last night was when everybody found out,” Celeste says about the fashion show that took place earlier this week. “My mother’s kind of hard, this old-school West Indies lady. But my mother was very emotional. It just felt so good to make them proud.”
“I dedicated this to my mom,” Noel says. “I don’t know how she built the life that she built for us. She invested in me, her support. She was in tears. When someone invests in you, you want some kind of moment where you can let the world know.”
“Oddly enough it was my brother-in-law,” Goldson says. “My sister and I are joined at the hip. My brother-in-law… we have this, like, big brother, little sister relationship. Last night I could just see… He was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m so proud of you.’ It was so different. That was the moment.”
They fully plan on giving back as much as possible, following in LeBron’s footsteps.
“They gave us this platform,” Noel says. “That’s what you’re working so hard for. What good is a diamond if it’s in a paper bag? The platform that they gave us to now build upon is priceless.
“I think what really touched us was how important it was to LeBron for our stories to be heard,” Noel continues. “‘What you want to stand for is what I care about. My mom, my wife, my daughter. This is what I care about. This is what I want to present to the world.’ And we all felt that to the bottom of our souls.
“He uses his platform to reach back and now that we’ve had this moment, we have to do the same,” Goldson says.
“We have to pay it forward,” Noel says.