As a sequel to the 2018 ‘De Lo Mio’ Air Force 1s, designer and creative director Cesar Pérez reconnected with Nike for a polylithic take on Dominican culture through an innovative Air Max 95 update of the sneakers. A term of endearment in the Dominican community meaning “of mine” or “of my people,” ‘De Lo Mio’ is not only an homage to the transcending of identity and cultural integration, it also comes just in time for Dominican Independence Day on Saturday, February 27.
As a child, Pérez noticed that Nike AF1s were occasionally dedicated to various countries including Puerto Rico, Japan and the West Indies, but neglected to acknowledge the Dominican Republic. Pérez ultimately went on to collaborate with Nike during the launch of the ‘The Ten’ by Virgil Abloh and Off-White, but it was during a by-chance encounter with a Nike executive at ComplexCon in 2017 that Pérez was offered the design opportunity of his childhood dreams.
Invited to Nike’s New York headquarters, Pérez hit the drawing board on the ‘De Lo Mio’ AF1s, dedicated to the vibrance of Dominican heritage and the flag’s colors, a nod to his origins of Republica De Nueva York. Instead of returning to New York for the ‘De Lo Mio’ Air Max 95, Pérez tapped legendary model Omahyra Mota (who visibly hasn’t aged since her appearance in the 2003 music video for “Change Clothes” by Jay-Z), stylist and creative director Raul Lopez and photographer extraordinaire Renell Medrano. The all Dominican-American team took to the Dominican Republic to shoot intense portraits in nature for ‘De Lo Mio,’ appropriately modelled by Mota.
Inspired by the machismo of Dominican renaissance man Porfirio Rubirosa (who was also the idea behind ‘James Bond’) and the Nike Air Max Neon 95’ silhouette, Pérez looked to throwback references to inform the futuristically sleek design of the ‘De Lo Mio’. After six months in the Dominican Republic last year, Pérez became rooted in his identity and the upliftment of his community through modern streetwear.
Originally set to drop ‘De Lo Mio’ last November, Pérez recently spoke with The Dominican Students Association at The City College of New York about the sneaker’s cultural relevance and advised young creatives to be consistent in their respective paths.
“As a young Dominican immigrant, you’re boxed into certain fields that your parents want you to follow that provide a way of living,” he said. “I think that there’s so much more out there in the world. Many of us want to do different things that are artistic and have so many different talents—I think there’s a way for you to explore all those different fields and really find what helps you convey whatever message you want to convey to the world. That’s the space I’m trying to live in.”
With a portion of all sales going to a nonprofit organization for children in the neighborhood of Corona, Queens (where Pérez was raised), the ‘De Lo Mio’ sneaker doesn’t just redefine the designer’s artistic integrity, but upholds the core of Dominican existence and the urgency for the culture to be celebrated year-round.