Why Michael Jordan and the Air Jordan’s History in Italy Made Milan the Right Place to Launch World of Flight

The next evolution of Jordan Brand direct-to-consumer (DTC) retail will soon make its debut in Milan.

At the start of December, Jordan Brand revealed World of Flight, its new retail concept that was described at the time as “a new pinnacle retail concept dedicated to the Jordan Brand.” Breaking down the World of Flight retail concept further, Jordan Brand stated it is “a tribute to basketball culture” that will connect the past, the present and the future through design and storytelling.

Speaking with FN today from Milan, Jordan Brand president Craig Williams confirmed his team has been working on this concept for “the better part of last two or three years.”

This new retail concept has emerged at a time when Jordan Brand parent Nike Inc. has sharpened its focus on DTC. Williams said World of Flight is just one component of a multi-pronged effort to make sure the company shows up for its consumers in a way they want to experience the brand.

“World of Flight is an opportunity for us to represent the culture and the community that knows us very well. It’s an opportunity for us to build and strengthen those relationships and connections in local doors, in local markets that make the most sense,” Williams told FN. “It will exist alongside our presence in Nike doors, which won’t change, alongside our presence in our partner doors, which won’t change. This is a part of our effort to make sure that we’re representing all opportunities of commerce but also importantly all opportunities for retail relevance with the consumer.”

The World of Flight concept, according to Jordan Brand, will “elevate community artists and creators” and connect “the look and feel to local basketball culture” while and incorporating authentic storytelling of NBA icon Michael Jordan.

World of Flight Milan
Inside the World of Flight store in Milan.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Jordan Brand

The Milan store spans 363 square meters (roughly 3,900 square feet) that is located at Via Torino, 21, Milano. The store will open on Dec. 16 and will be open Monday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. CET to 8 p.m. CET.

Although MJ became a sports icon in the U.S., the baller and his namesake brand have long strong ties to Italy. The most notable tie was an exhibition game in August 1985 where the athlete famously shattered a backboard with a dunk, outfitted in black, white and orange head-to-toe. The event has informed several sneaker colorways in the time since.

“The brand has many roots in Italy, going back to 1985 when MJ was here and there was a famous shattered backboard event that lives in folklore. And the AJ2 was manufactured here, it was the first fashion-forward performance shoe,” Williams said. “And then Milan specifically is a fashion capital of the world. When you think about everything that we’re trying to do in basketball culture, being very prominent in actually pushing basketball culture forward as much as possible, Milan is a perfect partner for this moment.”

MJ and the brand’s history with Milan, however, isn’t the sole reason for choosing this location to launch World of Flight.

“Anybody who is anybody has either a footprint in Milan or they study aspects of the fashion industry from here,” Williams said. “Secondly, basketball culture is alive and well in Milan as well. It has everything that happens on the court but also those things that happen off the court as well — the fusion of art, fashion, music, so many other aspects. It’s alive and well here in Milan. It’s a very vibrant place and is perfect for this new door.”

Aesthetically, Jordan Brand tapped two artists — Milan-based Stefano Sumo and Los Angeles-based Jacob Rochester — to enhance the World of Flight Milan look and feel.

“Stefano brings an artistic flair that was honed right here in Italy. That is a perfect ingredient to the mix that this new door represents. Jacob brings a more traditional North American approach to art. The combination of those two is pretty cool,” Williams said. “You can see some of those influences marry in a way that makes this place very special for Milan, but also a place we hope that will become a gift back to the community because that’s what we want it to represent, a gift to basketball culture, our ode, if you will, to the culture that is very responsible for the success of the Jordan Brand.”

World of Flight Milan
Inside the World of Flight store in Milan.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Jordan Brand

In terms of product, World of Flight Milan will carry an elevated men’s, women’s and kids’ assortment, as well as things that are exclusive to the store and customizable items.

The experience inside includes the Lounge DNA Wall in the Flight Lounge community space, which Jordan Brand said will prompt customers “to explore and reconnect with the roots of the brand” through iconic imagery of MJ’s career, original Jordan product on display and more. Also, there will be a glass High Heat Product Display with the week’s upcoming product drops to preview.

For SNKRS shoppers, the store will feature SNKRS App Content Screens, which will display  the calendar of upcoming drops, as well as help customers sign up for the app and the SNKRS content series, and the SNKRS Pick-up Window that will be open on high heat launch days.

It will also have several workshops, including customization of the Air Jordan 1 or Flight Jackets for members, personalization of Jordans for all consumers via grab and go accessories and shoe lace styling, and sneaker preservation for members through education and services aimed at extending the life of their Jordans.

World of Flight Milan is owned and operated by the Percassi Group. “Percassi has been a longtime partner with Nike, they have several doors in Europe — many of them right here in Italy. They’re very well known inside our system and we’ve done great work with them for several years. This is their first Jordan door, but they’re a known entity inside our system,” Williams explained.

World of Flight Milan
Some of the product featured in World of Flight Milan.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Jordan Brand

Looking ahead, the rollout plan for the World of Flight concept elsewhere will be fluid.

“We’ll take every opportunity in the next four months to be informed by what happens inside the four walls of this door, be informed by the local interactions and events that we have here, and that will establish an additional foundation for how we deploy in the future,” Williams said.

Williams continued to say that Jordan Brand has no specific target locations or number of doors for the World of Flight concept, and that future doors will be “based on not only what we learned [in Milan], but also consumer and marketplace realities.”

However, no matter where it expands, there will be a familiar look and feel.

“There is a macro design language and philosophy that is World of Flight that we will use. That was a template and a strategic approach that was developed by our Jordan design team, a very talented group led by [Jordan Brand VP and chief design officer] Martin Lotti. We’ll use that and fuse it with local tastes and local relevance,” Williams explained. “It’s the combination, that fusion that gives us an opportunity for to be very familiar from a global standpoint but also very intimate and personal when it gets to the local markets in the local neighborhood.”

Basketball culture also has to be robust in any future locations.

“One of the first and most important ingredients is that the consumer has to be present and basketball culture has to be alive and well in order for a door of this type to really thrive. What that means for us is based on our current momentum, there are many opportunities for us the world over in terms of door expansion. We’ll just take it one door at a time,” Williams said.

World of Flight Milan
Jordan Brand president Craig Williams (L) and VP and GM of EMEA Sandra Idehen.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Jordan Brand

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