How Mimi Plange Celebrates Diversity Through Sneaker Collaborations
Recall those eye-catching LeBron 18 Lows that LeBron James himself was seen wearing on-court back in February? They’re some of the latest work from Ghanaian-born fashion designer Mimi Plange! Plange and her eponymous brand – which creates ready-to-wear pieces, accessories and more – have been collaborating with Nike and LeBron James on the LeBron 18 Low model over the past year or so. Together in 2021, they created the ‘Higher Learning’ and ‘Daughters’ colourways, followed up this year by the ‘Scarred Perfection’ and ‘Mad King’.
Through her own sense of storytelling, Plange is celebrating pre-colonial African cultures and representing all forms of diversity, resulting in a unique and ‘unfashion’ take on sneaker collaborations. Check out our interview below.
Congratulations on your latest collaboration with Nike and the LeBron 18 Low! How does it feel to have the designs revealed to the world?
Thank you so much! It feels amazing, incredible, awesome – out of this freakin’ world! We get to share our work with a whole new audience and with the very best of the best: LeBron James and Nike. It’s kind of unreal! We’ve spent so much time creating a brand with a very specific voice that is unique and distinctive. We’ve always wanted to share ourselves in our own way, without limitations or boxes, and it feels amazing to be able to do that at a larger scale.
When you first founded the brand, were sneaker collaborations something you wanted to accomplish?
Definitely! We always looked at our brand as being global. We wanted to be able to touch people everywhere from all walks of life. In order to do so, we knew it had to be a lifestyle brand, and as a smaller brand, our strategy was to grow through collaborations. Our first was with Manolo Blahnik. After that, we did furniture with Roche Bobois and content with Instagram. Fashion has to be more than just clothes today. We have to be able to touch so many different senses and appeal to a wider audience than we once did. The world needs to build together now. Right now, everything is about collaboration and bringing different communities together. Nike was absolutely at the top of the list – it was ultimate goals. We were like, one day, we are gonna collaborate with Nike. And we are here!
Your design themes have a strong sense of inspiration behind them. Talk about that.
Our approach to design has been organic. We’ve allowed ourselves to change and evolve over time. When we started, we knew we wanted to share stories about our cultures. For that, we would be mixing Ghana, America, Senegal, and Belgium. Our stories had to be true to us. They couldn’t be told from one specific angle. We wanted to mix all our different experiences together without any rules or societal pressure to be or design a certain way because we looked a certain way. We wanted to celebrate pre-colonial African cultures by referencing the ideas of adornment, scarification, tattoos, body painting, architecture and rituals in a very modern and abstract way because they intrigued us, and we wanted to know more about the history of African ‘fashion’ before colonization.
The culture of fashion in Africa has mostly been about individuality. It was never to follow or look exactly like someone else – it’s about celebrating one’s self. This, to us, was true punk couture. When we began to research these tribal markings and forms of adornment, we began to see how these markings were used to bring people together and also set them apart within the community. This idea of identity is what we are speaking to in our work. This is what we mean by ‘unfashion’. We’re celebrating those who stand in their uniqueness, creating their own style or identity in the sea of sameness. It’s important for us to share our history in the most beautiful way possible that allows consumers to come in and be a part of it in their own way.
How important is it that you represent diversity in your design?
I think it’s important to represent diversity in a lot of different ways. Diversity in looks, approach and, most importantly, in thoughts. Diversity is so much about your experiences and getting to know and appreciate different types of people from everywhere who are different from you. It’s about approaching the design process and people with no expectations or pre-judgements. It’s allowing yourself to observe and absorb the environment around you. I believe the more you pay attention and listen to many different types of people, you become a better designer and learn to bridge a commonality with yourself and others.
What is your relationship with sneakers?
I’ve always worn sneakers and didn’t really think that much about them. I was open to any style as long as I liked them, and I was never into any one specific brand growing up. All I knew was I wanted something unique and kind of exquisite. I started paying a lot more attention when the collaborations started. I loved the Riccardo Tisci Nikes, Raf Simons adidas, and everything from Sacai. I started thinking about sneaker design, which ultimately led me to love sneakers even more. The more I wanted to design them, the more I wore them and wanted to see what was out there. My everyday sneakers are Nike Dunks and Air Force 1s. I wear my LeBron 18 Lows definitely off the court, and I just recently got my first pair of Jordans. I’m very much so a dirty sneaker girl. I tend to pick one pair and wear them to the ground until one day, I’m like, ‘Whoa, these are looking kind of gross :).’
The Mimi Plange x Nike LeBron 18 Low ‘Scarred Perfection’ and ‘Mad King’ release this week! Get the details here.