Today, streetwear brand Fly Geenius announces the release of their latest capsule collection for Vanson Leathers in collaboration with Aleali May. Founded in 2011, the forces are all joining together for a timely New York Fashion Week launch to fulfill everyone’s childhood dream of owning an iconic Vanson Leathers jacket.
“I met Aleali briefly in 2019 at a 3.1 Phillip Lim fashion show. We spoke briefly, we didn’t speak about any [collaborations], so I just was telling her how I’m a fan of her movement,” newly appointed Creative Director of Vanson Leathers, Davon Bean told ESSENCE. “When I officially became the Creative Director for Vanson, I just reached out to her and told her what I wanted to do, and everything just started flowing from there. She was excited to even do it and be a part of working with Vanson Leathers.”
Fast forward three years later, the iconic motorcycle leather manufacturer and the multihyphenated creative are coming together for the ultimate collaboration timed for a release during New York Fashion Week. Shot by Bean’s 24-year-old daughter Dev, the campaign Fly Geenius x Aleali May capsule collection with Vanson Leathers is being exclusively presented by Stadium Goods featuring custom-designed jackets, vests, and accessories hand-crafted by Vanson.
Ahead of the release, ESSENCE had an exclusive chat with Bean and May about the capsule collection, the importance of amplifying Black creatives, and their personal relationships with streetwear.
ESSENCE: What excites you the most about this collaboration, and what can we expect to see?
Davon Bean: “What excites me most [is] people are really seeing our art, what we worked on, and just the rollout. Aleali’s team, my team, we just worked together and we really created magic. I’m really excited and we can expect to see a motion picture movie with the rollout. We already started the rollout, but it’s going to continue and the release is tomorrow.”
Aleali May: “For me, it’s definitely people getting fly, putting it with fresh fits, copping the jackets, and seeing the designs come to life. It’s very limited so I feel like if you do have this colorway, it is very special. When you’re looking at CADs, which is pretty much the computer-generated version of what it’s going to look like, it’s really dope. When you actually see it in person, when you see it being made in the factory, when you see we’re all traveling, trying to get things done, that’s really where the excitement is. Not everyone dresses like me and Davon so it’s really cool to see how people put the pieces together and how they wear them. These are pieces that you can live in. These are Vanson Leathers are pieces that you can put in the closet and later on, it only gets better in time.”
ESSENCE: What were some of the most fun, and the most challenging, parts of working with one another?
Bean: “Everything was fun on my end. I don’t really think it was too much challenging. Sometimes when it came to some of the design and production side, just because all of our garments are handmade. Certain things we had to revise and things like that, but other than that, it was pretty easy flowing.”
May: “Honestly, the process was really good. You have two creatives working with these companies. Sometimes it’s a lot of outdated things in the system that [we] together have really been trying to just work through. Obviously, there’s going to be some bumps in the road as far as what we want as far as production wise and things like that. Communication means everything and I feel like as long as you got that, you can really get through anything as a team. It’s honestly been great to see it because this is the first time I’m really working with leather pieces and also just the history of Vanson is really dope.”
ESSENCE: How have each of your relationships with streetwear and fashion evolved over the years?
May: “I feel like everything that I loved as a little girl, everything on my wall, everything that I was absorbing, I’m being able to wear it now. My playing dress-up is now. I was born in ’92 so this is definitely around the time when music videos and magazines were still a thing. My posters [were] all over the wall [and] in the bedroom. For me, it’s really just living out what that younger Aleali was already into. She’s always been into Jordan, she’s always been into motor stuff. This is natural, but now applying it from a design aspect with all the experience, I think that’s really the part where it’s like, ‘Yeah, your younger self would be in awe right now.'”
Bean: “Growing up in the Bronx, I’ve been a fan of fashion, streetwear, and also of Vanson since the ’90s. When I was able to partner with them in the beginning and collaborate through my own brand Fly Geenius, everything just came to fruition because I already was inspired by Vanson. It was pretty easy to work with them and everything. It was just my lifestyle.”
ESSENCE: Why is it important to amplify collaborations between Black creatives in the style and fashion industry?
Bean: “I think it’s important, especially Black creatives because we’re behind a lot of things and sometimes we don’t get the credit. Our culture is really what pushes a lot of things forward. It’s very important to shine light on us.”
May: “We got all the juice. Part of my whole thing and being able to be where I am today is because [of] the people before us. We know there’s a certain time when the internet has helped boost the knowledge of these creatives that come before. It’s also our responsibility to highlight, ‘Yo, we’ve been doing this, we’re going to keep doing it. We’re going to keep killing it.’ Now because of the foundation that’s been laid, we have the opportunity to get into the office and tell our stories through our design. That’s really what it’s about, too – to help the next kid to come in and say, ‘Okay, they did that colorway. I’m about to kill it with this one.'”
ESSENCE: Did you ever feel like you’ve had to mold and reshape who you are when collaborating with larger brands? How did you navigate through it?
Bean: “Again, I started off working with Vanson by doing a collaboration with my own brand, Fly Geenius. In the beginning, it was a little bit of pushback, but we got on the same page. When it came time to actually do the collaboration with popular people like Aleali, it was pretty seamless and simple because we already went through the rough patches when we were just working on a collaboration with Fly Geenius.”
May: “You got to have those talks with each other and be like, ‘How can we make this the best? What could this possibly open up later?’ Some of the early convos that we had and as far as applying design, how we wanted to shoot it and everything was just hands-on. I definitely counted a lot on Davon to [be] like, ‘Yo, here’s my vision. This is what I’m thinking.’ Then, there [are] the people behind the scenes. I got to go into the office and tell them, ‘This is what we doing.’ Those people are really important because not only for Davon being in Fly Geenius and me getting this Vanson Leathers. This also with my Jordan collabs before. There’s always somebody in there fighting for you and behind-the-scenes people [are] definitely a big factor in really creating all the stuff we see today.”
ESSENCE: If you could give advice to people who want to go into the influencer creative collaboration space, where would you tell them to start?
May: “Look at your friends; look at the circle that’s around you. If [you’re] a photographer, I’ll be your model. It really starts with that. I always think about it as school projects, but this was the stuff that we were trying to do in high school. Working as teams, putting together a project, presenting it together. These are a lot of the early steps of group work. Just keep doing that because you can’t get somewhere by yourself. I definitely stress that having a team is important, but you got to look around you. Look at the resources and start there because nine times out of 10, when you sit there and talk about your dreams with other people, there’s somebody that’s going to probably help facilitate your next step. Don’t be scared to take the leap; we can’t really see it until we get there. Sometimes you just got to step in faith and be like, ‘We got this,’ and the path really opens up.”
ESSENCE: How do you believe that social media has impacted creatives in the fashion and style space?
May: “I think it is a double-edged sword. You got to take what you can get from it. If you feel like your inspiration is more hands-on in the world, go and do that. If you feel like you can find it on the internet, go and do that. There are a lot of pros and cons to social media, but find what you feel comfortable with, go with that, and not really put a time stamp on things. Obviously, we think things are overnight, but there’s a lot of people that have been working a really long time, and honestly, everybody’s journey is different. Some people might be overnight, some people might be working there 10 years later. So I think all stories need to be told because it’s really just like Tupac said – spark in the interest. That’s really what we feel like as creatives. We just want to get our stuff off, but then also spark the young kids out there who want to prosper, do design, and want to be in those spaces to help facilitate somebody to come in.”
Bean: “I feel like social media could be a gift and a curse. It’s great to get your work out there and get your art out there, but you could also have a few designs and be happy about it. Then, you go on social media, see someone else that did something, and you demotivated a little bit. Like she said, it’s a double-edged sword. You got to just utilize it to your benefit and get inspiration where you can.”
ESSENCE: Davon, you mentioned earlier that your daughter was the photographer for the campaign. How did she become involved, and what advice would you give her about staying the course in this industry?
Bean: “She became a part of it just from working with my brand Fly Geenius. She’s always been a photographer. My daughter’s 24, so she picked up being a photographer maybe around 20-years-old. I always just told her, ‘Follow your dreams and no matter what, just stick to it.’ It’s hard sometimes. She also saw what I went through, the ups and downs. I always tell her, ‘You always glean on me, but don’t ever give up. I know it’s hard, but don’t ever give up.’ She has seen me being broke, me not having money to even fund certain collections, and I always made it happen. We made it work so that’s part of her inspiration as well.”
May: “It was really dope because when we were talking about the collab, we were talking about shooting it and how we were going to shoot it. I’m like, ‘Yo, I got this dope videographer. He lives in New York. He’s originally from Jamaica. I met him through Nigel Sylvester, which is Black BMXer. He signed to Jordan brand.’ Then we were like, ‘Who’s going to shoot?,’ and [Davon] was like, ‘My daughter shoots. She be shooting, like Mary J. Blige.’ I was like, ‘Nah, we good. We going to have her on the team.'”
Below, check out the official campaign shots starring Aleali May, only available at ESSENCE.com.