On a chilly December Sunday night in Los Angeles, within a quiet warehouse facility in the Compton area, a celebration of unity took place. The event focused on highlighting community and equality through the universally adored and worn shoe—Nike’s Air Force 1. This all-day exhibition transformed the space into a sleek collection of US creatives and their art all finding their way to Los Angeles to celebrate “Force” and what it stands for and the culture behind it.
The Air Force 1 is a perfect example of unity. It has become a beloved fixture for pop culture, continued generations, and different cultures around the globe. Introduced in the 1980s, the sneaker has been transformed from its initial debut to what it means today. It surpasses its basketball origins and joins the list of fashion staples. While the shoe’s look has had its modifications, from Riccardo Tisci’s interpretation to its silvery look in 2016s X-Men Apocalypse, the feeling remains: the Air Force 1 is for all, All For 1.
Nike, in partnership with Girlgaze – the network that connects female-identifying creatives with different brands, gave female photographers the opportunity to capture different heroes across North American communities capturing the spirit of the sneaker.
One selected LA photographer, Daria Kobayashi Ritch, decided to focus her work on Sam Brambila, the leader of the Undefeated movement (?!) once again redefining the male-dominated sneaker culture. “ ‘All For 1’ means that everyone is in this together. If one person wins, we all win,” Brambila stated as part of her profile on Nike.com.
Ritch also captured Kheris Rogers, the 12-year-old middle school student who was bullied for her dark complexion. Rogers created the hashtag campaign, #FlexinInHerComplexion, that eventually turned into a successful clothing line. The portrait of Rogers was front and center on the wall, with hand-made tiedown straps hanging in front and spelling the #FlexinInHerComplexion. “Together, we can make a difference in the world, empower a new generation of leaders, and encourage others to love themselves unconditionally,” shared Rodgers.
Marking the night’s festivities, the exhibition also included a sneaker giveaway by shoe retailer, GOAT. Upon entering, attendees were given tickets with hopes of getting the lucky stub with an invisible-ink code. The winner was awarded a pair of Air Force 1 triple black grails. For those that weren’t so lucky enjoyed a variety of cereals, offered by Cereal and Such, which was created by LA gender-bending music artist Theo Martins.
Some walked away with a purchase of basketballs coated in black vinyl, which could be interpreted as a celebration for the accomplishments of Chaniel Smiley, the Drew League’s first female commissioner, whose portraits also appeared at the exhibition. Both Smiley and Martins were captured by Thalia Gochez, the first-time Girlgaze campaign photographer.
Nike understands the power of subcultures and rising communities. By creating this event and connecting some of the most outspoken artists, the sportswear brand, once again highlighted that what you wear defines who you are, even when it comes to shoes.