Expanding in Italy, Michael Jordan’s sportswear empire is set to conquer the East. Learn why Milan makes sense as the first stop from a storytelling and positioning standpoint.
On Friday, over 7,000 miles away from The Spirit statue in Chicago, Jordan Brand will open its first flagship store in Italy.
Properly placing the Jumpman flag in the global capital of fashion and design, the 25-year-old powerhouse is right at home in Milan, even if Michael Jordan’s roots first sprouted in another hemisphere.
Serving as the brand’s introductory World of Flight concept store, MJ’s empire is dubbing the space as a “pinnacle retail concept” that “stands at the forefront of streetwear and basketball culture.”
From the runway to the field, the hardwood to the pitch, Michael Jordan’s namesake company has absolutely exploded despite already appearing as massive.
So, why Italy, and why now? Boardroom explores.
Boardroom explores the business behind this regal retail experience.
Culture Meets Couture
According to Jordan Brand, the new World of Flight Milan store stretches over 300 meters in sheer space, offering everything from revered retro releases to high-heat collaborations tied to Travis Scott, J Balvin, and other influential entities.
While basketball remains the sole focus of the store — and the brand — the platform allows both MJ and consumers to spread their wings through elements of customization and conversation.
Inside the space, the Flight Lounge artfully presents relics from MJ’s career as a launchpad for both inspiration and education.
The famous Flight Jackets and Air Jordan 1s worn in advertisements by His Airness in the ’80s and other novel products will be sold in full-family sizing in a manner that’s inclusive.
More excitingly, said statement pieces at World of Flight will allow opportunities for customization, making Mike’s story one with that of the consumer.
Perhaps most modern, SNKRS integration will play out IRL through digital content screens and an in-store pick-up window.
This all aligns with Nike, Inc.’s recently announced mission to keep pristine products highly sought after all while making fans feel they have a fair shot at actually securing them.
For those keeping track at home or abroad, Jordan Brand has long moved units in droves from Baltimore to Beijing, stocking both boutiques and mall-based retailers with enough size runs to outfit an army.
Still, its flagship retail experiences are limited to the likes of Los Angeles and Chicago.
While Italy may not seem like a natural progression to those embedded in America, it makes perfect sense where Jordan Brand’s history and the future are concerned.
Milan & Beyond
Before the 1992 Summer Olympics took basketball beyond borders, Michael Jordan and his team at Nike were making marketing trips in the offseason.
Back in 1985, just weeks after winning Rookie of the Year honors, MJ played in an exhibition game in Italy. While camera phones nor social media existed, the glorified pickup game would be picked up by an array of outlets years later once they did.
Famously, Mike’s Italian exhibition went viral in the 2010s as footage from the game showed him infamously shattering a backboard when slamming home a vicious dunk.
Though he did so in the Air Jordan 1 — a story retold on said silo 30 years later in 2015 — it’s actually Italy’s tie to Mike’s second shoe that proves most timely and topical where World of Flight is concerned.
Less than two weeks after Friday’s store opening, the Air Jordan 2 returns to retail in original, remastered fashion. Famously, the great Peter Moore and brilliant Bruce Kilgore traveled to Italy in the mid-80s as a means to make an epic sequel to the original Air Jordan.
It was only in Italy that the brand brass from Beaverton could create a high-fashion hoops shoe capable of taking Michael’s game and aesthetic to the next level.
“With Mark Parker and the design aid of Italy, [the Air Jordan 2] brought that elegance, sense of style, and differentiation,” Ron Hill, former Nike Product Merchandiser, told Boardroom back in July.
“We wanted to position as an aesthetically different brand because Michael was a different athlete.”
In Italy, the skill and taste level needed to make Mike not only just a hoop hero but also a fashion icon were all accessible.
These premium ingredients were all essential in making Michael Jordan his own brand a decade before the Swoosh sought to give him his own subsidiary.
To some, this journey all started with the Made in Italy ethos and marketing of the Air Jordan 2.
“It was gonna be more expensive and it needed to have that element of luxury as you call it, but we would call it style performance,” Hill says.
“If it looked like a Nike, we failed.”
In 2022, the Jumpman logo and the Jordan Brand are entirely their own entity where consumer consciousness is concerned. Incredibly bankable, it’s been reported that Michael Jordan has made over $1 billion off royalties from his namesake subsidiary alone.
With worldwide retail ventures and massive markets still yet to be fully unlocked, Italy is likely the first step in many more moves. The timing makes sense, but so does the talent.
Jordan Brand is already globally established and has much of its heat not just as an aspirational entity, but also by selling a decidedly American Dream that’s since gone mass following MJ’s world tour in 1992.
However, by being operated by the Percassi Group – an entrepreneurial organization that’s opened shopping experiences for the likes of Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, and LEGO in Italy – Michael and Co. have the right running mates to take home even more wins overseas.
More curiously, this union follows small-scale experiments perhaps meant to test the Italian market.
In 2020, Jordan Brand shocked consumers by using Bologna’s Back-Door Bottega as the random relaunch site of the “Banned” Air Ship. That same year, the brand used Italy as the exclusive launch pad for the Air Jordan 1 Mid “Milan” by aligning with Milan-based boutique, One Block Down.
Because of all this, the Italian introduction for the World of Flight space checks out.
As expressed, this Milan mission makes sense when considering timing and storytelling. In turn, it makes the mystique around Jordan Brand all the more elevated as fans will have to flock to the fashion capital just for a chance to take all the iconic imagery and elevated experience in.
The Jordan World of Flight Milan is located at Via Torino, 21, Milano with the doors now open.
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