As we approach the launch of the Union x Air Jordan AJKO 1 Low Collection, we’re looking back at the history between the LA-based retailer and Jordan Brand.
Nike has had the pleasure of working with a wide variety of tastemakers, collaborators, and visionaries inside and outside of the footwear industry. One of the most critical (in recent times) being LA-based retailer Union Los Angeles. On top of working with Nike Sportswear, Chris Gibbs and his brand have blessed the world with some of the most coveted collaborative Air Jordans and seemingly are set to continue this going forward in 2023. Approaching the release of the two-pack of Union LA x Air Jordan AJKO 1 Low in canvas and leather builds, we’re taking a look back on the history of Union and its collaborations with JB.
Originally founded in NYC back in 1989, James Jebbia of Supreme fame alongside Eddie Cruz and Mary Ann Fusco opened up Union as a storefront carrying some of the hottest streetwear labels during the birth of this subsection of fashion. After only a few short years the business opened up its second location in Los Angeles (in the same spot the current-day storefront sits) thanks to Cruz moving west. When it was first opened, it operated as a co-branded storefront with Stussy called “The Stussy Union,” and eventually operated under its own branding as a place for the youth to hunt down overseas fashion.
James Jebbia eventually left the label and founded Supreme in 1994, though the two storefronts continued to operate under the guidance of Eddie Cruz and Mary Ann Fusco. Step in the current owner of Union, Chris Gibbs. After working for Fusco in NYC in 1996 and moving to LA in 2003, Gibbs would gain experience working for Undefeated and Union LA. During that time, Nike and Union began to work together in 2005 when they reimagined the Air Force 180. Gibbs would later take over the brand in 2010. Fast forward to 2018, and Gibbs’ label tackled its first Jordan Brand collaboration.
Union x Air Jordan 1 High OG “Black Toe” and “Storm Blue”
Keeping in theme with Union’s aesthetic of vintage fashion and hard-to-find pieces, Gibbs helped debut the now-grail-status Union x Air Jordan 1 High OG in the “Black Toe” and Union-exclusive “Storm Blue” colorways at the Rose Bowl Flea Market to a sour reception initially. Videos from this event show customers checking out the mashup of original Jordan 1 colorways and scoffing at the design, some believing them to be knockoff sneakers. Once the proper rollout began and the release sold out, people began to understand its appeal as the vintage vibes mixed with added branding details, high-quality leather, and the mashup of the “Neutral Grey/Black Toe” and “Bred/Storm Blue” made for one of the best Jordan Brand releases of 2018. Now, the two-pack is considered to be one of the greatest collaborative efforts on the Jordan 1 High.
Union LA x Air Jordan 4 “Off Noir” and “Guava Ice”
Two years after Union LA and Jordan Brand’s hit AJ 1 pack, Gibbs looked to tackle another iconic silhouette in the Air Jordan lineup with another two-pack of releases - the Union LA x Air Jordan 4 “Off Noir” and Union-exclusive “Guava Ice” colorways. Changing key details of the Jordan 4, the initial reception for the pack was negative just like the AJ 1 as the flipped tongue was polarizing, to say the least. Luckily, the design was achieved through stitching that was easily removable and the public looked past this with the once-again high-quality build and vintage aesthetic that has now become Union’s trademark design language.
On top of the Jordan 4, Union also tackled the Jordan Delta Mid and Jordan Zoom ‘92 in the same colorways as the 4s as a part of an overarching collection. These more performance-based models didn’t see the same success amongst sneakerheads, though are still solid takes on the models.
Union LA x Air Jordan 4 “Taupe Haze” and “Desert Moss”
Continuing its redesign of the AJ 4 a year after the initial two-pack dropped, we once again received two colorways from Union and Jordan Brand under the “Tent & Trail” Collection that took inspiration from outdoor adventures. With apparel ready for your next camping trip, the AJ 4 still remained the same as the previous release with the stitched tongue details, fully plastic wings logo, and vintage hues, however, the color palette stayed in the realm of earth tones between the "Taupe Haze" and "Desert Moss" colorways. This two-pack was a solid follow-up and (possibly) fitting conclusion for Union and Jordan Brands' collaborative take on the AJ 4.
Union LA x Air Jordan 2 “Grey Fog” and “Rattan”
Union was one of the first collaborators to help Jordan Brand’s push for the Air Jordan 2, a silhouette often overlooked by many, through another two-pack release. As seen in “Grey Fog” and “Rattan,” Union’s design language utilized in previous projects continued as a vintage aesthetic is applied to details like the laces, while also keeping the classic Union-branded tag and over stitching details. Also similar to previous projects, the Jordan 2s release was centered around the idea of a “utopia” and featured a wide range of apparel alongside a Jordan Crater Slide.
Union LA x Air Jordan AJKO 1 Low “Sail” and “White”
Considering Union’s key partnership over the years, it's only fitting it is helping debut the new low-cut version of the Air Jordan AJKO 1. Taking on “White” and “Sail” color schemes, the former of the two pairs keeps the KO’s canvas construction while the “Sail” sees the introduction of leather across the upper. Things remain simple with a few key details we’re used to seeing from Union x Jordan collabs, like the “UN/LA” tag and added yellow stitching, though the removable Swoosh detail allows for you to rock the pairs with an accenting hit or extra Union branding. Inspiration for this collaboration comes from “classic sportswear vibes as influenced by the Black and Latino cultures during the mid to late 80s.”
Launching on through select retailers and Union LA on February 2nd, the “White” colorway will be available through other retailers while the “Sail” pair will remain exclusive to Union and SNKRS (which drops on February 4th).
Union LA x Air Jordan 1 High OG (2023)
Rumors popped up in January 2023 regarding Union possibly releasing a new colorway of their highly sought-after Air Jordan 1 High OG. So far, we have no confirmation on the exact colorway, though the rumors are suggesting we may see a change to the material makeup such as knit or mesh being included.
Keep it locked to our Twitter and the Sole Retriever mobile app to stay updated on the latest information regarding Union’s possible new AJ 1 High and more information in the sneaker and streetwear world.