Air Max Day isn’t a ~real~ holiday, but we’ll take any excuse to eat some cake and celebrate shoes. Yesterday, sneaker heads everywhere were stunting on the ‘gram in commemoration of the fictional festivities. It may seem like a strategic marketing ploy to exploit our newfound love for Dad Sneakers, but the holiday has shopping significance — and history! On March 26, 1987, Nike released the original Air Max 1, a silhouette that continues to be regarded as one of the brand’s most iconic models. For the past five years, Nike has been celebrating the birthday of Air with pop-up shops, surprise sneaker drops, limited edition styles and lots of social media coverage.
Heading into the shoe’s 31st year, Nike is paying homage to the next generation of Air: they called upon a group of select young artists to use Air Max 270, the latest innovation in Air sneakers, as their inspiration. At Toronto’s Nike Air Gallery, we caught up with two local female artists to chat about their creations.
Maria Qamar, fondly known to the Internet as @hatecopy, creates cheeky Lichtenstein-esque pop art that explores life as a Desi woman — someone of South Asian decent who lives abroad. (If you don’t know her from social media, you may recognize her work from the walls of Mindy Kaling’s office on The Mindy Project.) Through her Instagram feed and first book, Trust No Aunty, Qamar has created a space for young South Asian girls in the diaspora to talk about their everyday struggles and experiences. She’s speaking to a specific audience, but it’s a conversation others should be paying attention to: “It’s a way to learn about our culture beyond butter chicken and yoga,” the 26-year-old artist says. “It’s a fun way to learn more about us, beyond the stereotypes. When you hear someone having an engaging conversation, you can’t help but wonder what they’re talking about. It’s a good way to inspire curiosity.”
According to Qamar, having a niche art does not prevent massive brands — like Nike, Uniqlo and Saavn — from wanting to work with you. “If anything, it’s the opposite,” she proudly tells me. “People are very intrigued. They’re like: ‘oh my god, we haven’t been talking to brown people. Why not?’ There’s literally a billion of us.”