“They were never meant to be seen by the public”

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A designer is sounding the alarm over his design of a never-before-seen Kanye West sneaker that is now up for auction.

Like AfroTech Already told you, Christie’s has put the Nike Air Yeezy 1 “Grammy” prototype and the Air Jordan 6 “Donda” sample up for auction. Together, the shoes are expected to sell for around $3.5 million.

As excitement around the shoes grew, one designer had mixed feelings.

Jason Mayden, a designer from Chicago who previously held multiple titles at Nike, is the shoe’s design architect.

He took to Instagram to reveal that the shoe was never meant to be sold, as it was in fact created in an effort to extend compassion from one Chicago native to another, after the death of Donda West.

“I designed these in 2008 as a private gift for @kanyewest during a tough time in his life. A loss is never easy. It’s a lesson I learned early in life,” Mayden wrote. on Instagram.

Although Mayden is grateful for the growing praise behind the shoe, in the same breath he seems defeated that a product that required a lot of sacrifice and was never intended for the public would succumb to the reality of capitalism.

“I am honored to see the world celebrate my art. However, to be honest, I’m surprised to see them auctioned off. They were never intended for public viewing. I’m from when you did things because you cared. Do not feed the algorithm. I hope @christiesinc sells these to a collector who really appreciates the private feeling expressed in this design. It’s not about influence, it’s about compassion,” Mayden continued.

The product was conceived around 2008 when Mayden was gaining a foothold in the industry. In a follow-up post, he said working on the design was a risky move as he was working outside of Nike’s box standards in terms of collaboration. At that time, the artists did not meet their quota.

“I could have literally lost my job making this product and the people who were at Nike at that time, you understand the risk we took to build things for people we looked up to. Many of us have lost our minds,” Mayden wrote via Instagram. “Many of us have done things that are now normal with the culture. Back then, it wasn’t normal to care about someone who wasn’t not an athlete. It was almost heresy to do it. So for me to do it and put my name out there for someone who wasn’t even signed to Nike at the time, that’s was a lot.

Mayden hopes the real story behind the shoe will be included in the conversation. For him, it’s not just a shoe to honor Donda. It’s a shoe created by a designer who risked everything to show his love to another black designer he admires because he also understands the importance of losing someone like Donda, after the loss of his grandmother.

“They cut out the real 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 jobs to go down the line to build this product. It wasn’t informed, it wasn’t compliant, it was a completely separate thing that we did and we built it with our bare hands and sent it to Kanye, sent it to somebody we just said, ‘Yo bro, a private gift to show your love for during a difficult time, because we’ve all been there.

He continued, “I don’t know if any of my followers or anyone in my network knows anyone high up at Christie’s, but I refuse to be left out of this story. I refuse to let it be just “Oh, this is a shoe made for Kanye’s mom. It’s so much deeper than that. It’s so much deeper than that. It was us sending an expression of pure love, creation I’m tired of people taking black creativity and exploiting it for leverage, exploiting it for clicks, exploiting it for monetary play without giving us proper attribution.


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