From Black to Gold: Behind the design of the “Wings”Air Jordan 1

From Black to Gold: Behind the design of the “Wings”Air Jordan 1

This special article was posted on the Nike SNKRS app today. We rarely post word-for-word, but we think it’s important you get the full story from the team of designers at Nike to understand the importance behind this shoe, and the entire series of “Wings” Air Jordans. You can catch the full article and breathtaking images below, and our original article here.


Early in his second pro season, Michael Jordan suffered his first serious setback—a broken bone in his foot. Despite doctors’ warnings and 64 missed games, he remained fearless, lacing up the newly debuted Air Jordan I in time to guide his team through the grind of the postseason.

With that legacy in mind, we sat down with Materials Design Director Suzanne Piubeni, Color Designer Kelsey Amy and Sr. PLM Jeff Atienza to discuss their collaboration with Wings, the brand’s community impact program. Wings promotes self-belief to help conquer seemingly impossible challenges.

Named in honor of the original Air Jordan logo, Wings inspires youth to believe in themselves and promotes the importance of education around the globe. Through partnerships with teachers, mentors and communities, Wings instills the belief that everyone can fly.

Having previously worked on the well-received Air Jordan XII ‘Wings,’ the design team aimed to create a shoe that tested visual limits while staying true to the established aesthetic. The process kicked off with a simple challenge from Piubeni: “What’s something special to the Wings initiative that we haven’t done before?”

The Air Jordan 1 Retro “Wings” is made of black leather with a gold undertone that is only revealed through agitation and stress. “It’s reminiscent of a bronzed statue,” says Amy. “It’s the idea of being immortalized—especially since the Air Jordan I is Michael’s most iconic shoe. It cemented him in history.”

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