An Exclusive Sit Down with the Women's Jordan Brand Collective
We’re joined by InHerSoles Collective Founder, Yaya Mazurkevich Nuñez, Creative Marisa Bryant, Digital Creator and True To Us Founder, Jourdan Ash, Designer Charamon Hunter and World of Boby Founder, Kirsten Corley Bennett.
Kicks & Fros: You all have strong roots in your cities. How has your hometown shaped your interest in sneakers, and what’s your most memorable streetwear/fashion memory that helped shape your style?
Yaya: I arrived in the U.S. when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was raised in the Bronx, and was bullied for wearing off-brand shoes. That quickly shaped my obsession with sneakers. Growing up in the Bronx, if you didn't have good kicks, it was over for you. The girls on my block put me on to buying OG sneakers; I’d walk over to Gun Hill and try to cop anything I could get for $40-$50. I used to save every single penny. I still have most of those shoes, and now I own over 200 pairs.
Jourdan: I'm from Harlem, New York so my first introduction to sneakers was the Air Force Ones (we call them ‘Uptowns’ in Harlem). I was around six or seven years old. When I was younger and lived in Detroit, my mom kept me in Jordans–”Jourdan in Jordans”! As I got older, the Air Force One was the sneaker we always kept around. As I transitioned from middle school into high school, my focus shifted to what my favorite celebs were wearing.
Kirsten: I’m from Chicago and I’ve always hooped, so my first introduction to sneakers was Jordans. I've always been the tallest or had the biggest feet, so I looked for shoes that made my feet look small. Basketball culture in Chicago produced a lot of influencers who made sneakers look cool with feminine flares, so I definitely looked to those style icons.
Marisa: I grew up between Eugene, Oregon and Las Vegas–two really different places for style. In Oregon, I was used to not wearing shoes at all; we lived along the river and I was always barefoot. I started working at a diner with my mom at age 13, and saved up money for my first pair of colorful Nike Dunks. I got into sneakers by watching how people like my older brother would wear them. He loved Air Force Ones; he would style them with the name belts and I loved that flashy style.
Charamon: I’m from Los Angeles, and my early sneaker memories come from growing up with my uncles in Inglewood, California. Out of all his friends, I was the baby, so they bought everything for me. They were rocking Nike Cortez, and even now the Cortez is my go-to shoe. My mom bought me my first pair of Jordans during tax season, and once I was able to start buying sneakers for myself, it was the Air Force One. This was the Nelly era, so I was buying Air Force Ones andpainting them with the Burberry and LV patterns on the check.
K&F: While the sneaker industry has made steps to be more inclusive for women and women of color more specifically, there’s always more work to be done. What’s a barrier you've experienced in the sneaker industry that you don't want the next generation of women to experience?
Yaya: Not being taken seriously. As women, we do this to each other, but in the sneaker industry, we get it from everyone. There's a saying, “I make kick contact before eye contact.” That’s because if you don't have the gear, the reputation, or certain “boxes'' checked, you're overlooked. But I see women running circles around men in the sneaker industry. I hope that women start getting the respect we deserve for all we contribute to the industry.
Jourdan: I've noticed that sometimes, I'm brought on set and am the “token”. I’m typically the only plus-sized girl, or the darkest woman in the room. I’ve learned to be more vocal and advocate for myself and my needs more when it comes to makeup and wardrobe, and I hope that I can empower the next dark-skinned, plus-sized woman in the industry.
Kirsten: From a consumer standpoint, accessibility. That applies across all platforms and socioeconomic backgrounds. I'm in a more privileged space than I've ever been, but I can see how even 5-10 years ago, if you wanted to wear sneakers and stand out, there was limited access to cool sneakers. You either had to have a plug, or someone to drop money on exclusive sneakers. Accessibility is definitely an ongoing issue that we can improve and benefit future generations of women.
Charamon: People assume women aren't serious about sneakers. They’re always questioning who got us into sneakers, assuming it was a guy we were dating. It’s not just a trend, and it’s not male-driven. Sneaker culture comes authentic to me and lots of women. I’m a retired dancer, so hip hop & sneakers were a major part of my life.
Women do this sneaker thing!
Working within the industry, it's not uncommon to come across people moving with a scarcity mindset. How have you been impacted by the Jordan Women Collective’s main focus being community and creating more opportunities for women in the industry?
Yaya: I’ve been very impacted by the ability to meet and collaborate with other women I’d otherwise never know, even though we’re in the same city. At our last retreat, I said I have 22 new sisters. I genuinely mean that! We’re always expected to compete against each other, but there are so many supportive women across the U.S. that I now have an open line of communication with to reach out. This is a bond that’s going to last forever.
Jourdan: Chicago and The Hamptons have been my favorite retreats so far. I’ve been constantly reminded that we’re all in this together because we’re doing great things within our communities. Now, we get to work and build together. We get the chance to see everyone for who they are and connect in a real, authentic way.
Kirsten: The retreat was very powerful for me because I've never been to something like that before. Growing up in the church, I didn’t meditate much. So to go to a retreat and immerse myself was a beautiful experience for me. I didn't really realize how much I needed it! I loved getting the chance to show the girls around my city, Chicago. We all get to be around such talented and raw ass women. I look up to and adore every single woman in the Collective. It’s dope to have 22 new friends, and some long lasting friendships already.
Marisa: My favorite experience was Chicago. It was seriously the time of my life! I appreciate all these entrepreneurs I’ve met. It’s just amazing to have new women to look up to, women who voice their opinions, make mistakes just like me, and create a safe space to be comfortable and ourselves. We really support and lift each other up. I have so much love for the Jordan team for bringing us all together.
Charamon: During our time in New York, I was more anxious because we were meeting for the first time. I wore my bamboo earrings, and just knew I’d be standing out and repping Los Angeles. Then here comes Yaya; she’s wearing bigger bamboo earrings than me, and had her name on them! Yaassssss. I knew I had just met my people. I love that I get to join 22 women who have different perspectives on what it means to be a woman in business, a woman who is running sneaker culture.
What’s one thing you want to manifest for the future? This could be for yourself personally, professionally, or the sneaker community/industry as a whole.
Yaya: This sounds cliché, but I want to manifest goodness, harmony and peace. I want us to walk into spaces, whether digital or in real life, where things are good and peaceful. If you're alive, I want good things for you. That's what I want to manifest for the whole wide world.
Jourdan: I created True to Us right before we went into lockdown. I spent a lot of time turning my little room into everything I needed it to be. A gym, office, a space for making clothes…it became everything. And now two years later, I’m signing the lease to my first True to Us space! So, I’m manifesting more opportunities to share this space with others.
Kirsten: I’m definitely manifesting peace. I want all that is for me to come to me, and anything that is in alignment with who my highest self is, who God wants me to be… that is what I want in my space.
Marisa: I’m manifesting growth in all my entrepreneurial projects. I’m dropping my creative agency in December and I have a ton of talent that I’m working with–about 8-10 people. I’m really manifesting a successful path ahead.
Charamon: I’m manifesting more strength and growth. Growth in all spaces, growth in my business, growth in my family, and growth in this athleisure brand that I’m building. I’m manifesting that women can be comfortable in whatever spaces, [showing up] however they want to show up, and not having to dumb themselves down.
You’ve built a community and space for women within the sneaker community to be represented and have a space to be empowered and inspired, who inspires you?
Yaya: I’m inspired by my mother and everything she did to raise three kids by herself in the Bronx without speaking the language. I’m inspired by the women from my community and everything they’ve lived through. I’m inspired by my people. I’m just in awe of how hardworking we are and everything we represent.
Jourdan: I’m inspired by the people who came before me. I’m inspired by my mom. She moved to New York from Detroit when I was six years old. She only knew one person, but she put down roots and has been grinding here. I’m inspired to do the same.
Kirsten: I’m really inspired by my sister, my mom, and my daughters. They’ve pushed me to be my best self every day, and it’s hard work. I’m inspired by every woman in the Collective. For real, I feel like I just got fresh new inspiration! All of these women are doing raw, out-of-the-box things, so thank you for being true to who you are.
Marisa: I have so many great women in my life. My best friends, who I've been friends with for over 15 years, are just such hard workers. They travel the world constantly and have to deal with so many barriers, but they handle it all so gracefully. I’m also inspired by my mom, she’s taught me unconditional love and inspires me to be more present instead of worrying so much.
Charamon: I’m inspired by my son. He is the reason why I stepped out of the box and out of my comfort zone. He inspired me to be myself, and to check into the woman I am. I hope he’ll be a champion for women when he gets older. And of course, these 22 other women in the Collective. They inspire me so much and I am grateful for the relationship we have and will continue to build.