Inside the Corporate x Jordan Air Ship, One of the Year’s Hottest Sneaker Collaborations

Corporate owner Matt Tomamichel got the sneaker world talking in August with his choice of footwear at the retailer’s fifth annual Cincinnati Sneaker Ball, a fundraising initiative for its Bigger Than Sneakers nonprofit.

The event raised more than $20,000, which will fund the nonprofit’s industry-focused sneaker academy, a 10-day effort open to high school juniors and seniors in Cincinnati. The funds will be used to expand the academy into Dayton, Ohio, and Indianapolis, the homes of Corporate’s two other stores.

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Immediately after the event, images of Tomamichel’s sneakers — a mint green pair of the Jordan Air Ship — circulated on social media, and speculation of an eventual release mounted. Corporate, which celebrated its 15-year anniversary in June, confirmed that it was a collaboration, its first with Jordan Brand.

Less than a month after its debut, Corporate is set to release its coveted Jordan Air Ship on Sept. 8.

The Cincinnati location will be the first to drop the shoe, starting at 6 a.m. ET on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Dayton, Ohio, and Indianapolis stores will release the shoe at 8 a.m. ET, also on a first-come, first-serve basis. An online release will take place via at 5 p.m. ET. The sneakers will retail for $150.

A Chosen Few

Corporate Jordan Air Ship
Corporate x Jordan Air Ship.Courtesy of Kevin Watkins/Corporate

Speaking with FN, Tomamichel said Jordan Brand approached Corporate and several other influential sneaker boutiques in April 2022 to reintroduce the Air Ship, a shoe worn by a young Michael Jordan as a rookie with the Chicago Bulls in 1984. The storeowner was on campus alongside retail peers A Ma Maniére, Undefeated, Concepts and others.

“The icing on the cake was [Jordan giving us the opportunity] to do an Air Ship,” Tomamichel said.

One month later, Tomamichel said he shared his ideas for the collaboration with Jordan Brand while on Nike’s campus in Beaverton, Ore. His initial ideas, Tomamichel admitted, weren’t exactly worth pursuing.

“I go to the table with some wack designs, bro,” Tomamichel said with a laugh. “They weren’t exactly wack, they just weren’t my best ideas.”

One of his ideas that still irks him was to dress the Air Ship in red, a color synonymous with Cincinnati.

“I hated it, bro,” Tomamichel quipped. “There’s a guy over at Jordan [NA NBHD marketplace director Aaron Cooper], and I was like, ‘I want a shoe I can wear any day of the week. Let’s go with red.’ He was like, ‘Uh, alright. I mean, I guess y’all are known for red.’ It was comedy, man.”

While on campus, Tomamichel said Jordan Brand had his initial idea mocked up, as well as other preconceived ideas created to inspire the storeowner and potentially lead him in the right direction. One look, Tomamichel said, was a nod to Skyline Chili, a food Cincinnati is known for. Another shoe was adorned with denim, which both hinted at Tomamichel’s hard-working nature and offered the wearer a midwest vibe.

Tomamichel left campus without an idea he felt comfortable pursuing. Months later, struggling to come up with something he would be proud of, he would return to Nike for the NHBD Retailer Summit in July. The trip, however, didn’t begin well.

“I ruptured my Achilles the day before heading back out to Nike,” he explained. “I tore my achilles at 6 p.m. on Sunday. My flight was supposed to be at 6 a.m. I call the doctor, I get in at 8 a.m. on Monday. I say, ‘Doc, I don’t care about my achilles. Can I fly to Portland?’ I fly to Portland, I meet all my peers on campus and they are all just pushing me like, ‘Man, you are on your way.'”

He continued, “Don C was the main one that came up to me. You know how Don talks in that accent? Don goes, ‘Hey G, they say you got it, kid. You’re going to kill it. You just got to keep applying pressure.’ In my eyes, if you’re speaking life into me, you’re a superstar. So now, I’m charged up.”

The Breakthrough Moment

Corporate Jordan Air Ship
Corporate x Jordan Air Ship.Courtesy of Kevin Watkins/Corporate

With a renewed confidence, Tomamichel said the ideas for a proper representation of both Corporate and Cincinnati started brewing.

“I go home, have surgery and I get in a walking boot. Then, I go back out to campus in September [2022] to review the samples. I say, ‘We can’t do this,'” Tomamichel said.

He continued, “I sell Jordan on this story of color. We’re going to flood this thing out with a bright color, because nobody has done any color on the shoe. And I’m going to elevate it with materials that you don’t find on Air Ships.”

That color was Light Menta, an eye-catching mint green hue on the Nike palette. To Tomamichel, the color represents royalty. Also, although not immediately familiar, the storeowner believes the hue is already synonymous with Cincinnati.

“Cincinnati is called the Queen City, and when I think of the Queen City, I think of royalty. On the paper [inside the shoebox], we paid tribute to the Fountain Square [in downtown Cincinnati], and it has a statue. The colors at night are the teal color,” Tomamichel explained. “This color, it represents Cincinnati and the direction that I’m trying to take the city. In early 2000s, it was always black and red. If we’re doing a rebrand of Cincinnati, what better color than this? This color feels like we’ve graduated, like we’re elevating our community.”

There is also a personal connection to the chosen hue.

“When I moved to Minneapolis in 2007 [and worked at Footaction in the Tri County Mall], I drove a 2000 [Toyota] Corolla. The color of the car was the same color on the shoe,” Tomamichel said. “Ain’t nothing flashy about a Corolla, but the color made it look so good. I had that car for the first five years of my business before I could afford a new one.”

Aside from the color, the shoe features details to make the shoe more luxurious. For instance, Tomamichel gave the shoe “double-Swoosh” treatment, adding a white patent leather version of the famed Nike logo underneath one executed in Light Menta, done to offer a bit of shine. He also opted to deliver the uppers in both leather and suede, which sit atop gray outsoles.

Also, the look includes several nods to both the city and the history of Corporate. The phrase “For the City” is stitched into the collar in his handwriting, which is a nod to his journey from Cincinnati to Minneapolis, and a reminder that wherever you go, you represent not only yourself but also your city. And the words “Got ‘Em” appear on the heel, a phrase that has been tied to Corporate since its debut in 2008.

“On Thur., June 11, my boy Jeff [McWhorter, whom I worked with at Footaction] hits me up like, ‘Yo, I need you to come in tomorrow. You’re going to do shipment.’ I was like, ‘I hate to do this but I’m quitting today. I’m going to open my store tomorrow,” Tomamichel recalled. “When we opened, we had the Nike Indie account and there were five shoes that nobody else had. After closing, sometimes I would go to the mall and hang out, and I went over and sat on the bench at Footaction. Jeff grabbed the phone and says, ‘Footaction, Jeff speaking. Nah, we ain’t got them, Corporate got ’em.’ I was like, ‘What do you just say?'”

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