A creator is sounding an alarm about his design of an unreleased Kanye West sneaker that is now up for auction.
As AfroTech previously told you, Christie’s has put the Nike Air Yeezy 1 “Grammy” prototype and the Air Jordan 6 “Donda” sample on the auction block. Together, the shoes are projected to sell for around $3.5 million.
As excitement around the shoes grew, one designer had mixed feelings.
Jason Mayden, a Chicagoan designer who previously held several titles with Nike, is the architect of the shoe design.
He took to Instagram to reveal the shoe was never intended to be sold, as it was actually created as an effort to extend compassion from one Chicago native to another, after the passing of Donda West.
“I designed these in 2008 as a private gift for @kanyewest during a difficult time in his life. A loss is never easy. That’s a lesson I learned very early in life,” Mayden wrote on Instagram.
Although Mayden is grateful for the growing praise behind the shoe, in the same breath, he appears defeated that a product that required much sacrifice, and was never intended for the public, would succumb to the reality of capitalism.
“I’m honored to see the world celebrate my art. However, to be honest I’m surprised to see these up for auction. They were never intended to be seen by the public. I come from the era when you did things because you cared. Not to feed the algorithm. I hope that @christiesinc sells these to a collector who truly appreciates the private sentiment expressed in this design. This is not about clout, this is about compassion,” Mayden continued.
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The product was designed around 2008 when Mayden was getting his footing in the industry. In a follow-up post, he said working on the design was a risky move as he was working outside of the norms of Nike’s boxes in terms of collaboration. At this time, artists did not fit their quota.
“I could have literally lost my job doing this product and people who were at Nike at that time, you understand the risk we took to build things for people we admired. There’s a lot of us who went on a limb,” Mayden wrote via Instagram. “There’s a lot of us who did things that now are normal with culture. Back then, it was not normal to care about someone that was not an athlete. It was almost heresy to do so. So for me to do it and put my name out there for someone that wasn’t even signed to Nike at that point, it was a lot.”
Mayden hopes the true story behind the shoe will be included in the conversation. For him, it is not only a shoe to honor Donda. It is a shoe created by a designer who risked it all to show love to another Black creative he admires as he also understands the significance of losing someone like Donda, after the loss of his grandmother.
“They’ve cut out the actual story behind why these things were created. I risked my job,” Mayden said in a follow-up video posted to Instagram. “My colleagues who helped me, Jake Vandam, Gentry Humphrey, Reggie Saunders, they risked their job to go on the line to build this product. This was not briefed, this was not in line, this was a completely separate thing that we did and we built this with our bare hands and sent this to Kanye, sent this to somebody that we was simply saying, ‘Yo bro, a private gift to show you love during a difficult time.’ Cuz we’ve all been there.”
He continued: “I don’t know if any of my followers or anybody in my network knows someone that’s high up at Christie’s, but I refuse to be excluded from this story. I refuse for this to simply be, ‘Oh, this is a shoe made for Kanye’s mom.’ It’s so much deeper than that. It’s so much deeper than that. This was us sending an expression of pure love, Black creative to Black creative. I’m tired of seeing people take Black creativity and exploit it for clout, exploit it for clicks, exploit it for monetary game without giving us proper attribution.”
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