There is a special bond of long-lasting affection connecting His Airness Michael Jordan to Italy, ever since the 1985 launch tour conceived by Nike to promote the new brand dedicated to the American champion, in which Jordan did not fail to make history by shattering the backboard with a dunk, in Trieste.
More than 35 years later, Jordan Brand has once again embarked on this emotional trail by opening Jordan World of Flight in Milan, a concept store aiming to put at the centre of its project the local community of artists, creators, and above all players and fans of a basketball culture populating the city.
But how does one translate this vision into a physical space, three decades after its inception, now that concepts such as community have a whole new and specific meaning?
Sandra Idehen, Vice President and General Manager Jordan Brand EMEA, took us to explore the project “from a design perspective” to discover those points that connect a legacy requiring celebration to the materiality of a space: “What you will find is that within the store you have a space that is dedicated to the game with our basketball performance product and showcasing some of our top basketball athletes such as Luka Dončić and Zion Williamson, but you also have spaces that are focused more on streetwear where the basketball culture aspect of the store comes to life.
When you think about legacy and future” Idehen explains, spaces take on a whole new relevance. “We’ve created The Flight Lounge, specifically focused on highlighting the heritage of the brand and telling the stories of Michael Jordan himself, including moments of when he played in Italy”.
The strategy was developed and controlled by the Jordan Design team with its Chief Design Officer, Martin Lotti, extending to an articulated network of technical consultancies and local partnerships to root the project in the city.
“We chose Milan as the first destination for Jordan World of Flight as the EMEA region is our fastest growing region” Idehen continues, “we have a lovely legacy of the brand in Italy back in the days when MJ played. Obviously, the famous story of the shattered backboard exhibition game took place here in Italy.
"Even the Air Jordan 2, which was a shoe MJ played with early in his career, was a luxury shoe that was manufactured in Italy. Milan, finally, is one of the fashion capitals of the world”. And most of all, Milan means “home” to a multitude of people who represent the culture of streetwear, basketball and its future today".
The whole thing is therefore about inspiring, connecting, but also representing: “Many of our store athletes are from the greater Milan community. We have an incredible collection of dunkers, dancers, rappers, artists – these are people who are at the heart of that local Milan community who are represented in our store athletes".
Even the way we physically built the store, you’ll find artwork from some local artists and talents of Milan.” Among them, Italian illustrator Stefano Summo has combined his passions for music, hip-hop, cinema and sport in his work, and photographer Tom D. Morgan — a Jordan fan since the 90s when he used to wake up at 4 a.m. to watch His Airness play, he points out — has celebrated local sporting venues and communities in his Environments project, developed for Nike in 10 European cities, and also reproduced on the t-shirts available in Milan at the Jordan World of Flight.