Jason Mayden, former Jordan Brand designer and current Nike Digital Sports Innovation Director, spoke with The Breakfast Club and covered everything from his start as an intern, how fake Nikes are sold, working with Nike and more.
With over ten years under his belt, Jason began like many from the ground up and he explains how he ‘got in the game.’
“I started with emailing people I did not know, giving up the chance to play sports or to go to art school. Just doing anything possible to work for that company because that was my dream, to design those shoes, so I feel fortunate that someone responded [to the blind emails]. Having people support it like Tinker Hatfield, people like MJ himself, and people like the former president of the Jordan brand, Larry Miller, reach out to me. I’m originally, from the south side of Chicago and normally we don’t have access to people like that so [having them reach out was an honor].”
While many students may have a love/hate relationship with their own ‘intern duties,’ Jason shared one of his primary roles from when he began as an ambitious intern.
“I was designing shoelaces, lace tips,” Mayden says. A surprised DJ Envy reacted and exclaimed, “They just put the plastic thing on it.”
“That’s what I thought,” Jason chuckled while he continued, “Until I started sketching them and then I figured out there’s a million ways to make them more cost effective. So, I did everything from how a shoe was constructed to how a shoe was closed was my responsibility as an intern.”
“I went and did everything; I went and ran errands for people, shoelaces, printing out presentations. I mean I went out and did everything.”
With designing kicks exclusively for Jordan, Jason has seen the compassionate, philanthropic side of Michael that many do no get a chance to see.
“A lot of people say, ‘Does MJ give back?’ He does, he’s not a vocal person but he sees people and invests in them. The company and MJ himself, invested in me over the years. [The company] ended up sending me to Stamford to get my Business degree as a designer, which is the opposite of what they normally do. I mean it just came down to me keeping my mouth shut, doing the dirty work, having the opportunity to grind, and here I am today.”
Envy then asked about the issue of fake Nikes and Jason explained the rumors that surround individuals who get Jordans earlier than the official release date and if these early editions are ever real.
“The interesting part is that there are several ways that people can get them early. They get ‘seeded,’ which you guys understand in the industry, someone sends them to you. People take them from the factories or sometimes they go to the retail and they have a pre-sale before they actually open up to the public.”
“It’s difficult to control it,” Jason explained. “But when they have a relationship with certain customers, they’re able to do it. But you know it’s fake if you see a ‘SpongeBob Air Jordan’ chances are we didn’t make it. It’s a huge problem for the industry in general because it’s an easy good to replicate; anything with leather and rubber people can make [fake sneakers].”
Mayden’s designing sneakers and making history receiving a feature on Complex’s “Black History Month Spotlight” for being the first black intern who went to school for Design at Nike.
“I was the first Black Design intern, I went to a design institution. They had other Black interns but never in Design, which is crazy because it was in 2001. Not that Nike wasn’t actively looking for minorities but the chances of us getting that opportunity was slim because not all of us [minorities] went to design school. Being able to be the first and keep the door open is a blessing.”
Towards the end of the interview, Angela asked how would one get a chance to work for Nike.
“[People can get a start at Nike through] several ways, either they know someone who is able to get their work in from of the right person. Or they apply for internships; they go online and apply for jobs. Normally, people hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and I usually work with them to get their portfolio up to speed in front of a recruiter. So it’s just having the ability and the confident to reach out, that’s normally how they get to Nike.”
Watch the video to see more of the interview!
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