Nike: On Air Winner Champions Diversity With The Air Max 98 "La Mezcla"

Image, Nike

Image, Nike

New York, known widely for its sneaker culture funneled the inspiration behind Gabrielle Serrano’s winning On Air design, “La Mezcla” (translated as “the mixture”). Featuring a crackled leather mudguard to signify the concrete jungle Serrano’s Air Max 98 design screams New York and incorporates a gradient upper to represent different skin tones in celebration of the diverse city.

In a sit-down conversation with Serrano, she takes us through her On Air journey, breaking down the intricacies of her “La Mezcla” design, down to the laces. And with now 800 pairs and counting of kicks in her collection we get the inside scoop on where her curiosity for sneakers began.

You can expect to get your hands on a pair of the Air Max 98 “La Mezcla” in April.

Image, Nike

Image, Nike

Last year your Air Max 98 “La Mezcla” design was the winner of Nike’s: On Air contest, congratulations! For the uninitiated, tell us a little bit about who you are and what shaped your interest in sneakers.

Thank you! My name is Gaby, and I’m the Nike: On Air winner for 2018. I initially got into sneakers through sports. I use to play basketball, soccer, track, lacrosse, pretty much everything, and sneakers were always part of that. Not to mention growing up in New York where sneaker culture is huge.

Do you recall your first pair?

Jordan’s, I remember whenever I wore his shoes I’d tried to mimic whatever move he did. He’s one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Did your background with sports play a role in your On Air journey?

Definitely! My coach always talked about the importance of practice, hard work, and being prepared as a player so when I found out I was going to be part of the workshop I started sketching and thinking of ideas. It helped a lot because the workshop was only three hours so if I went in with no idea I probably would’ve been overwhelmed. [Laughs]

You chose the Air Max 98 model, did you own any Air Max models growing up?

Yeah, I’m a huge Air Max fan! I’m not sure how many I own, but its a big collection. I have a lot of different silhouettes.

For On Air in particular, why go with the 98?

It went best with the story I was looking to tell. I wanted to highlight all the different skin complexions on an equal level, and the 98 was the better silhouette for that.

Were there any other top contenders?

Yeah, I’m a fan of 97, 95, so I sketched out different models that I thought might work, but the 98 ended up being the best choice. [Laughs]

Can you breakdown the shoe for us?

Sure! With the skin complexions, I wanted to highlight the diversity of New York and the people who make the city what it is. On the heel tab, I have vitiligo because I wanted to include everyone. There are New York, New York coordinates on the inside of the shoe. The swooshes have a Statue of Liberty colorway because I wanted to represent immigrants that came to New York as well as my family. I’m first generation, so I thought it was important to include. Same with the laces, the aglet reads “La Mezcla.” And on the mudguard, I have a concrete jungle type of vibe going on, then a blue bubble to represent the water of New York and also Ellis Island.

Image, Nike

Image, Nike

With being on both ends, the consumer and producer side, what are some things that were top of mind when designing this shoe?

For me, it was important to clearly relay the message and highlight the story of “La Mezcla,” but also make sure it looked good and was comfortable. It worked out well, being on both ends because as a consumer I know what I like as well as what my friends and everybody else are into and was able to apply that to the shoe.

Its evident culture was a huge inspiration to your design. Tell us about how being a native New Yorker and Latina played a part in that.

Being a New Yorker, you see so many different people from different parts of the world, and as a Latina, I wanted to represent my family. The name “La Mezcla” is purposely in Spanish, it means “the melting pot,” because diversity is something that heavily impacted this design.

Gabrielle Serrano’s Design Board

Gabrielle Serrano’s Design Board

Moving forward what are you excited to see within the sneaker industry?

I’ve gotten so many messages and even in person at events, people telling me how I’ve inspired them, so I’m excited about more doors opening for woman and woman of color. That’s really important.

In addition to the launch of Serrano’s “La Mezcla,” she’ll be a mentor for Nike’s On Air hands-on design workshops happening in New York, starting March 22nd through March 31st. For more info on how to attend, click here.