LOS ANGELES — Luxury sportswear designer Don Crawley, aka Don C, has heard the question over and over again: When are you going to make your Just Don x Air Jordan II sneakers in women’s and kids’ sizes?
Even his own wife and children had trouble getting pairs of his exclusive Jordan Brand collaboration. So Crawley decided to switch up the third installment of his Just Don x Jordan Brand sneakers, making the “Arctic Orange” shoes exclusively for women, children and babies (with the highest price point reaching $350), dubbing the theme “Family First” and releasing the sneakers on May 13, the day before Mother’s Day.
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) May 13, 2017
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) May 13, 2017
“I felt really bad because my immediate family couldn’t participate in the last drops, so I just thought this was a cool perspective to come from,” Crawley told ESPN.com at the Just Don x Jordan Brand pop-up store before the 10 a.m. PT release. “Me being a sneakerhead, I know how it is every Saturday getting up and checking the Jordan releases. I just wanted to do one exercise to encourage the guys to be unselfish for this one.
“Still get out on Saturday morning, but do it for your family, do it for your mom, your girl, your kids.”
Don C reveals hidden details on his Air Jordan II “Just Don” sneaker that people might not notice upon first glance of the shoe.
If you’re a guy looking for one of the dusty pink pairs in your size, good luck. Unless you’re one of Don’s family members or good friends, you’re not getting one. That said, Crawley decided to restock his first two releases, a blue “Royal” pair and a tan “Beach” pair, at the flower-shop-themed pop-up store so families had a chance to walk away with shoes for everyone.
“A big part of this project came from all the conversations he’s had over years with people that come into his store, with people that he meets on the street,” said Chris Grancio, CMO of Independent Sports & Entertainment (ISE) Worldwide, the sports, media, entertainment and management agency Crawley is signed with. “He gets such great feedback on his product, but one of the things he heard a lot of was, ‘When are you going to make something for women?’
“This is really a response to him understanding there are a lot of people out there seeing his product, watching him build it, and feeling like this is a big opportunity for an expansion in his audience.”
Luxury sportswear designer Don C, standing alongside Jordan Brand design director Gemo Wong, describes the design process behind his last collaboration with Jordan Brand, the Air Jordan II “Just Don” in Arctic Orange, which released Saturday, May 13.
Given the hype and exclusivity surrounding Crawley’s designs, Nike and Jordan Brand decided to debut a new form of sneaker consumption, SNKRS Stash, with his release.
On Friday, sneakerheads using the Nike SNKRS app received a notification that there were three secret stash spots around Downtown Los Angeles where they could purchase and reserve a pair of the Just Don x Air Jordan II “Arctic Orange.” The app led them on a scavenger hunt to find one of three locations. Each location — the pop-up shop and two flower carts at local parks — had 100 pairs up for reservation, and all three sold out within 55 minutes.
Later in the day, fans who missed the reservation process began camping outside of the pop-up store for Saturday’s release. Julian, the first fan in line, had been waiting since 4 p.m. PT on Friday to snag a pair. The line quickly wrapped around the corner building that hosted the pop-up shop, stretching hundreds of people long, and over 200 people entered and purchased shoes within the store’s first two hours. While final numbers aren’t confirmed, Jordan Brand expected roughly 1,000 customers Saturday.
Fans who were lucky enough to make it inside the shop were treated to quite the sight: a sprawling white space covered in flowers, with a neon-orange Jumpman logo on a flower wall, a flower-filled “Just Don” sign, two racks of Just Don pastel-colored merchandise, and the “Arctic Orange” sneakers set up on top of flower bouquets in the middle of the store like highbrow sculptures in a museum.
A tour of the Just Don x Jordan Brand pop-up shop for the Just Don x Air Jordan II “Arctic Orange” that released on Saturday, May 13.
This is all possible, in large part, because of Crawley’s unparalleled ability to revamp iconic products — baseball caps, Mitchell & Ness throwback gear, Jordan shoes — and sell them at designer prices.
“I just like Don’s approach to product and how he mixes high and low,” said Gemo Wong, Jordan Brand’s senior design director of special products. “I’m always looking for someone to bring a different approach to our product instead of being predictable. Don is very good at mixing, like I said, highs and lows and culture. Just doing different things with basketball and sport and fashion.”
Crawley, 40, was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. He first gained prominence in the mid-2000s as Kanye West’s best friend, tour manager, DJ and tour merchandise designer. Considering that launch pad, Crawley could be in the news more. However, he rarely does press and likes to maintain his privacy, which has created a mystique around him. His unabashed, blunt personality makes for an interesting sound bite, as he’s always interjecting his perspective — but only when he so chooses.
“I always tell people, ‘Situations change; principles remain the same,'” Crawley said. Crawley later added: “I always tell everyone, ‘Authenticity remains in style.'”
Though he’s still close with West, and continues to design his tour merch, Crawley has branched out on his own and established himself as one of the premier tastemakers of sportswear over the past six years.
In 2011, he debuted his Just Don luxury headwear collection, designing NBA, NHL and MLS hats with snakeskin straps and brims, and selling them at $450. The price point and exclusivity of the hats gave them a rarefied air, as did the boost of having West, Jay Z, LeBron James, Rihanna and Justin Bieber, among other celebrities and athletes, rocking the hats at various NBA games, nightclubs and events.
“There are very few people that can transform an industry the way that Don transformed headwear,” Grancio said. “To be able to go out and create a market for $450 hats, is really exceptional if you think about the way that markets work.”
Crawley parlayed that success into partnerships with Jordan Brand, Mountain Dew and Mitchell & Ness, and forthcoming collaborations with Spalding and New Era. He also co-founded the popular streetwear shop RSVP Gallery in Chicago and is opening up another store in Downtown Los Angeles later this summer.
Everything he touches turns to gold — and sells at nearly the same price.
Don C says the Air Jordan VI is his “grail” sneaker, and claims he has a special “Donda West” Air Jordan VI sample that has yet to be seen by the public — and may never be released.
Crawley’s best work — and most expensive — are his Jordan collaborations. Despite his first two releases retailing for $699 a pair, he sold out the 10,000 pairs from each release in less than an hour.
According to Flight Club, the popular sneaker retailer and consignment store, Just Don x Air Jordan sneakers resell from anywhere between $850 and $1,250 online and in store (it’s too early to tell how much the “Arctic Orange” will resell for, but it won’t be much cheaper than that). That’s as expensive as almost any other Jordan model and in the same range as West’s Yeezy line with Adidas.
Part of ISE Worldwide’s partnership with Crawley has been helping him establish more creative control over his products, making him more of a collaborator than designer. That includes eventually expanding outside of the sportswear realm, as well as moving on from the Air Jordan II and working with different models. When pressed to divulge which Jordan silhouettes he might collaborate with in the future, Crawley deflects.
“He knows,” Crawley said, pointing to Wong, who is standing alongside him.
Wong said: “I think we’re always trying to do something unexpected, especially with someone like Don. Like I said …”
Crawley interrupts, getting to the point: “We ain’t gon’ tell you.”