Matt Tomamichel hopes his Jordan Brand collaboration inspires the next generation of entrepreneurs and philanthropists — Andscape
Matt Tomamichel doesn’t abide by conventional wisdom.
He opened his sneaker boutique, Corporate, in 2008 in the Cincinnati suburbs, an area few associate with the latest fashion trends. So it makes sense that when Jordan Brand partnered with Tomamichel for his own Air Ship, he went against the grain again. Rather than stick with red and black, the most notable colors associated with the University of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Reds, and Jordan, he thought about his community, Jordan’s legacy, and the people who helped him take that winding road from point A to point B.
He also considered the car that made those early days possible: a teal 2000 Toyota Corolla.
“When I started this business 15 years ago, it was me and a teal Corolla. That little car helped me so much along the way. I moved away from home and started my career at Status Footwear & Apparel, first as an intern in Minneapolis, then a store manager in Columbus. The Corolla eventually brought me back to Cincinnati to get things really going for Corporate,” Tomamichel said. “In the beginning, that was all I had. The color was always with me. I also thought about the brand’s DNA. It was a shock when they first revealed the [Air Jordan 1]. I wanted to bring that shock factor back to Jordan.”
Tomamichel’s philanthropic work in his hometown affected everything from design to unveiling. It’s not just about “putting on for his city.” Tomamichel envisions this partnership with Jordan as his bullhorn. He hopes it calls attention to issues such as giving children access to computers and science, technology, engineering and math classes and giving a little back to a place that gave him so much.
Releasing on September 8, the Corporate x Jordan Air Ship rethinks the model. Hairy suede replaces leather around the toe, heel, and most of the shoe’s body. Nubuck on the mudguard and ankle collar, with Corporate’s name embroidered on the ankle. And an abbreviated version of the store’s motto, “Corporate Got ’Em,” appears on the heel. Tomamichel took the Air Ship from a shoe designed for basketball courts to one made for casual settings. But throughout production, something felt off about the swoosh. “When we saw that first sample of the suede check on top of suede, I said, ‘Man, they look dull,’ ” said Tomamichel, reflecting on those early days designing the shoe at Jordan Brand headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.
Tomamichel paused the design process and returned home. That brief detour gave him the idea to put the finishing touches on his creation.
“I showed it to one of my best friends and he was like, ‘Yo, patent leather or something to outline that swoosh.’ And we both said white patent. The shoes shine so bright in person,” said Tomamichel. “It gives you just enough shine to get noticed.”
New materials and a shocking teal color are one thing. Still, the Air Ship represents his community and heritage through more design choices. The insoles feature the Cincinnati skyline while the tongues pay tribute to two people who can’t share this moment with him: his father, Larry Cravens, who died in 2022, and his close friend Aubrey McCreary, who died in 2005.
“These two people got me through this, even not being here I know they had my back. That’s my community: my family and friends. But also people [in the city] who just root for Corporate. Had it not been for them, none of this would’ve happened. And I think that’s what makes us different,” said Tomamichel.
For Tomamichel, being different means giving opportunities to his neighbors, like his most senior employee, Josh Elder, who started interning at Corporate as a high school student. Or the Cincinnati Sneakerball, the annual celebration his nonprofit organization, Bigger Than Sneakers, hosts. The Sneakerball lets attendees step out in their flyest kicks, with the proceeds going to local nonprofit organizations.
“When we started [Sneakerball] five years ago, I told my wife we needed to do something for us. And when I say ‘for us,’ I never mean for me. It’s always about what can I give back to this city,” said Tomamichel. “We built equity so everyone knows it’s about helping.”
The Cincinnati Sneakerball, which was attended by 650 people in August, is where he debuted his Air Ship. Since he somehow dodged leaks, no one knew that his shoes that night were new and of his design. This is a feat given that Jordan, understanding sneaker culture, kept telling him to leak the shoes himself before anyone else involved got the opportunity.
Once the Sneakerball photos hit the digital airwaves, fans wanted more details while the media circled to provide them. Unveiling his Air Ships on that night at that event seemed like part of a larger plan that put all eyes on an event near and dear to Cincinnati. It is hoped that that extra attention translates into more awareness for the causes and nonprofits it supports. And that includes Bigger Than Sneakers, which he started in 2018. Today, the foundation runs on an annual budget of $100,000.
This year, rather than donating the Sneakerball proceeds like they usually do, the foundation invested the money into their endeavors focused on preparing the next generation.
“We give kids opportunities for internships around the community and offer workshops. We also teach them how to use different technologies, like Adobe Illustrator, along with giving them the tools to use it, like an iPad and a pencil. We’re just trying to give kids access because that’s the thing that everyone says we as minorities don’t have,” said Tomamichel.