Behind the Design Air Jordan 1 Wings

Early in his second pro season, Michael Jordan suffered his first serious setback—a broken bone in his foot. Despite doctors’ warnings and 64 missed games, he remained fearless, lacing up the newly debuted Air Jordan I in time to guide his team through the grind of the postseason.

With that legacy in mind, we sat down with Materials Design Director Suzanne Piubeni, Color Designer Kelsey Amy and Sr. PLM Jeff Atienza to discuss their collaboration with Wings, the brand’s community impact program. Wings promotes self-belief to help conquer seemingly impossible challenges.

Named in honor of the original Air Jordan logo, Wings inspires youth to believe in themselves and promotes the importance of education around the globe. Through partnerships with teachers, mentors and communities, Wings instills the belief that everyone can fly.

Having previously worked on the well-received Air Jordan XII ‘Wings,’ the design team aimed to create a shoe that tested visual limits while staying true to the established aesthetic. The process kicked off with a simple challenge from Piubeni: “What’s something special to the Wings initiative that we haven’t done before?”

The Air Jordan I Retro ‘Wings’ is made of black leather with a gold undertone that is only revealed through agitation and stress. “It’s reminiscent of a bronzed statue,” says Amy. “It’s the idea of being immortalized—especially since the Air Jordan I is Michael’s most iconic shoe. It cemented him in history.”

While this edition of the Air Jordan I is sure to catch eyes, some details are less apparent. A translucent outsole features WINGS in bold type, while the shoe’s insole graphic displays gold-trimmed wings—a nod to the foundation’s mantra: “With a little help, everyone can fly.”

“Often, there’s one small element that makes your shoe different,” says Amy. “We consider those tiny details that might be overlooked—but followers of the brand and the program will appreciate them.”