One of the key elements that helps separate the Jordan Brand from its competitors is its storytelling through the lens of arguably the most transcendent athlete in the history of sport. There are sneakers dedicated to his highest-scoring games, his championships, his signature plays, and much more. But when Jordan teams up with a collaborator, the Jumpman turns to its partner to tell a story that embodies their values and their brand.
In 2019, Edison Chen's streetwear label, Clot, teamed up with the Jordan Brand to release a terracotta warrior-inspired rendition of the Air Jordan 13 Low. Equipped with metallic gold and clay-colored side panelling resembling a warrior's armor, the 13s were a premium take on one of Michael Jordan's championship-winning silhouettes.
Two years later, Chen and Clot are back with two more terracotta creations by way of a Jordan 14 and a Jordan 35. Chen and his design team saw a perfect opportunity to keep the story alive with the 14, as the side panelling of the shoe lends perfectly to the design previously featured on the 13. With that aesthetic in mind, the team turned to the much more futuristic model in the Jordan 35 and opted to keep the color scheme the same, with an added touch of jade to further pay homage to the brand's Chinese roots.
The Clot x Air Jordan collection will release in its entirety on Feb. 8.
It seems like Jordan is giving all of their recent collaborators a retro shoe as well as a Jordan 35. Did you choose to work on the 14 and the 35, or how did that happen?
For us, there's always a narrative to our collaborations (for example with Nike and Silk Royale). When the Jordan team approached us to do the 14s, the terracotta concept started coming back around. I started observing the panels of the 14s, and its silhouette is similar to the 13s, so we wanted to continue the story and the 14s fit the concept of the terracotta perfectly, with the side panel as terracotta armor. Each shoe is a different stage of patina for the warriors. Hopefully as we get the opportunity to work on more Jordan collaborations, we'll continue to revisit the terracotta concept again and you'll be able to see and experience this story through multiple shoe designs—the evolution of the patina. For the 35s, we wanted to stay true to the silhouette and design whilst giving it a little oomph. The 35s for me are super futuristic. They remain a performance shoe, and we continue the color tones inspired by the terracotta warriors, but with an added ode to the heritage of jade.
What are your thoughts on the Jordan 35 silhouette?
It's one of Jordan's latest silhouettes featuring new innovative technology. The shoe's details help boost and enhance our design to another level. For me it's like, super futuristic, and there's different narratives we were working on with Jordan that we wanted to expand on. So looking at the 35, basically the color tones are still inspired by the terracotta story but with a different side added to it that pays homage to Chinese heritage, jade.
Did you take a different approach when designing a performance model in the 35 rather than a retro?
I would say more like how we could utilize the new features into our design and highlight the speciality of the collaboration.
A similar color palette to the Jordan 13 is featured in this collection; is the meaning behind the collaboration the same? If not, what is it?
It is sort of the same and not. It is the patina that changes. This time around the 14 is an upgraded evolution and continuation of the version of the 13 with more Chinese heritage elements and ideas infused into it. You can see the updated colorway based on how the colors of the terracotta warriors changed when they were unearthed and over time.
As a multiple-time collaborator with the Jordan Brand, what is it like to leave your mark on a brand with such an iconic legacy?
I can't even really describe it. Sometimes, I can't believe that it's happened already. When I was a kid in school, I remember drawing Jordan basketball shoes and jerseys. Being given the opportunity to actually draw and design an Air Jordan is one of my biggest accomplishments. Working with Jordan Brand makes me feel like when I was a kid, and I'd be like, "Jordan!" before going for my fade-away and hitting it. It's an unbelievable feeling, and I can't really explain it, other than that it feels awesome.
If you had to rank the collaborations Clot has done, what would that look like?
We're 15-16 years deep into this. I mean, before, we were just winging it. We didn't know what we were doing. Now, we have more institutionalized thinking about how to make an abstract design real. Now, even through working with Nike and Jordan Brand, we're much more able to push through different limitations, and we know more. There's no way I can rank the collaboration Clot has done as each and every one of them is individually unique and special.