The Six “Dominican Yorkers” Behind Nike’s 'De Lo Mio' Campaign Share Their Inspirations
Around half a million people in New York City have ties to the Dominican Republic. In a homage to the city’s Dominican culture, Nike teamed up with NYC shoe designer César Pérez to create the long-awaited “De Lo Mio” Air Force 1s, which drop Saturday. The AF1s, first created in 1982, are also known as Uptowns due to their pervasiveness in upper Manhattan neighborhoods such as Washington Heights, sometimes called “Little Dominican Republic.”
“De Lo Mio” — which translates to “of mine” or “of my people” — is a term of affection used by Dominicans that gained popularity in 2011 when the now-deceased dembow artist Monkey Black’s “De Lo Mio” was pumping through speakers in the DR and NYC.
As part of Nike’s plan to promote the sneaker, six NYC-based photographers of Dominican descent were selected to shoot photo essays themed around the shoe. Dominicans living on the Caribbean island have dubbed Dominican-Americans or those who emigrated to the states and have picked up “American” habits regarding fashion and culture as “Dominican York” (the term has evolved from its original more negative connotation).
The resulting Dominican York–inspired campaign has been shared on social media and Nike platforms such as the SNKRS app, giving us a glimpse of the celebratory shoe, on sale tomorrow and available through the app. The artists, given full creative control by the footwear giant, opened up to CHICA about their work.
De lo mioooo 🇩🇴✨✨✨ @nike tapped me and other amazing Dominican artist in NY to photograph this incredibly special project 🌹 And who else could bring them to life better than my partner in crime, my boochie @yaris_sanchez Now live on the SNKRS app 😭❤️❤️ #teamnike @nikenyc
A post shared by Dulcinea 🌹 (@cheril_sanchez) on Nov 9, 2018 at 4:55pm PST
Dominican-born Cheril Sanchez, 27, felt a fresh connection to the sneaker once the project was presented to her. Her shots reflect that area where she grew up in the Bronx’s Kingsbridge area and highlight her family’s business in Marble Hill. “I wanted [viewers] to feel like home, in the sense that this is where I grew up. I walk those grounds daily, my mother’s salon is in that area. Working with Yaris Sanchez, we go way back, all those spots are connected and influence us. I wanted to showcase my relationship with my best friend and how we constantly are creating.”
Feeling pretty emotional with the overwhelmingly positive reactions to this moment in our culture. The fact that I could bring this to my moms salon, where she works tirelessly 50+ hours a week and give her something to brag about LOL (Because let’s be honest, a lot of DR parents aren’t well versed on any brands or magazines, but NIKE, that’s generations right there). AND a shoe that recognizes our presence and influence in NYC! This is for US 🇩🇴✨ I can go on! thank you again @nikenyc and @ceze.p for designing this 🔥#delomio #teamnike
A post shared by Dulcinea 🌹 (@cheril_sanchez) on Nov 10, 2018 at 10:23am PST
A post shared by JUAN VELOZ (@jveloz) on Nov 11, 2018 at 9:54am PST
Juan Veloz, 23, raised in Brooklyn’s Bushwick, never imagined he would ever shoot with a major brand like Nike. From the sneaker to the messaging, everything about the project felt right to him. Juan told CHICA, “It makes me feel powerful. As Dominicans, we’re known to be unapologetically loud and in your face. For Nike to be like, ‘Do that,’ made me go, ‘What? You sure? I’ll make this real Dominican, I’ll use my grandmom.’ ”
When Veloz presented the idea to his family, his mom hopped on board as creative director. “Dominican moms are really into decorating, and as soon as I told them about it, she said, ‘Esto es mio’ [this is what I’m good at] and took control.”
Veloz explained why he chose to honor his forebearers: “Most Dominican-Americans wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our grandparents. It felt right to include the person that brought us to this country. Grandmothers are like a second mom to most Dominican kids, the point of me using my grandmom was to showcase the maternal role she plays — she helped raise us. Grandmoms always hold it down, especially in Dominican culture, we respect our grandparents so much.”
A post shared by JUAN VELOZ (@jveloz) on Nov 9, 2018 at 5:29pm PST
When I was approached by @ceze.p to take part in this project, I immediately thought of portraying the side of Dominicans that we rarely see represented within mainstream media. Because like dominoe pieces themselves, we may all seem the same, but if you look closer, we’re all different and should be able to coexist. I wanted to celebrate and highlight the “New Dominicans”, the alternatives, who like me, don’t fit into the “mold”. But we are 100% de lo mío 🇩🇴 Gracias @nike @nikenyc fam for this opportunity, forever #teamnike #dominicanrepublic S/O to my equipó 💄 @cateurena 💇🏽♀️ @wanthy 👗 Rey Peña Assist @sazonszn 2nd Assist @tanpapi
A post shared by Elvin Tavarez (@friedplatano) on Nov 9, 2018 at 6:00pm PST
For Elvin Tavarez, 27, the project meant being able to shine a light on something personal for him: the LGBTQ community, which isn’t as embraced in Dominican culture as in others.“I’m gay. My whole thing was, I wanted to put on my brothers and sisters from that community, who get treated as outsiders. And make sure it was as inclusive as possible, one of my models is deaf, and I also had a trans woman in my shoot.”
The Queens-raised photographer executed his idea with influences driven by early ’90s hip-hop culture. To prepare for the shoot, he pulled references from merengue icon Tono Rosario and ’90s trip-hop duo Massive Attack.
A post shared by Elvin Tavarez (@friedplatano) on Nov 9, 2018 at 7:23pm PST
Salute to all my Dominicans !! @Nike teamed up with @ceze.p to create these amazing AF1's for our culture. We've come a long way and I’m extremely proud to be apart of this project 📸 ! let's keep creating and inspiring 🙌 🇩🇴 @nikenyc #teamnike #delomio #af1 #santodomingo #republicadominicana #nike Available November 17 !! 🔥🔥🔥
A post shared by RALPHY RAMOS (@ralphyramos) on Nov 10, 2018 at 12:12pm PST
Ralphy Ramos has worked with Nike in the past, and while it was pouring rain the weekend Ramos shot in the DR capital of Santo Domingo, he made use of every occasional break in the clouds.
The 32-year-old photographer, experienced shooting BMX bike action, shot in the neighborhood he’s from, Villa Duarte, and was able to embrace an everyday Dominican lifestyle, hanging out on apartment balconies. Ramos didn’t know any English when he moved to Brooklyn at age 11 with his sister and mother. “Knowing my background and everything I’ve been through, to be a part of this campaign means a lot to me. Especially being able to shoot in my old neighborhood with one of my friends,” said Ramos.
Still taking everything in and in awe that I was one of the six Dominican photographers chosen to shoot a Nike Campaign for the ‘De Lo Mío’ Dominican Af1’s that were made for us, our people and our community! Para la gente, por la gente! It is a dream come to true to shoot for Nike while also paying homage to one of the most influential cultures and communities, DOMINICANS! It only made sense to do this in Washington heights, the largest concentration of Dominicans in the U.S. I was born in Washington heights, raised in the bronx and spent many summers visiting my motherland. Orgullosa de ser Dominicana y poder representar nuestro comunidad! This sneaker represents so much for us! There’s no better feeling than the positive response and support we’ve been receiving. The energy is amazing! It’s overwhelming, inspiring and beautiful all at once. Thank you to my amazing team that helped bring my vision to life! I couldn’t have done it without any of you! So much respect to @alnardoperez for killing the styling!🇩🇴🔥🌟 -MUA: @makeupartistnat 💋 -Muses: @santijas @cannabeans @woooptywuuu 🇩🇴😍 • Check out the work of the very talented Dominican photographers involved: @friedplatano @jveloz @dulcinea__ @avargasphoto @ralphyramos 🇩🇴🇩🇴🇩🇴🇩🇴 • BIG THANKS TO @nikenyc, @ceze.p & @emilyanadu for making this possible for us! #teamnike #delomio
A post shared by A 📸 🎞🇩🇴 (@adelinelulo) on Nov 12, 2018 at 10:59am PST
Wanting to show what it’s like to be a teenager growing up in NYC’s Washington Heights, 25-year-old Adeline Lulo’s inspiration came from memories of being with her huge family and the sisterly bond Dominican cousins tend to have. In addition to get-togethers at her grandmother’s house, she remembered her sister and friends posing for photos in the sneakers.
During her teen Catholic school years, she would roll her skirt and pair it with the now classic AF1s. Lulo told CHICA, “It brought a nostalgic feeling to me, and I felt it was important to recreate my teenage life. I chose Laura, Angie, and Jasmine because I’ve always been inspired by their bond and their style. They remind me of myself growing up with my sisters and best friends. [We] are all Dominican’s who were raised in the Bronx and are striving to make the best of ourselves and our dreams. It isn’t easy being the child of parents who migrated to the U.S., but there is so much that we learn through the struggles and that makes us who we are.”
Papa Jose & Brother Enrique for @nikenyc @1xylorique Enrique’s Wardrobe: @bocaderosa Make up: @mmvglam De Lo Mío AF1’s by @ceze.p now live on SNKRS app, out 11/17 Photo assistants: @yo_cyn @jorgeeist #teamnike #s23nyc
A post shared by Alberto Vargas (@avargasphoto) on Nov 10, 2018 at 10:03am PST
Queens native Alberto Vargas spent his life traveling back and forth between both countries. He wanted to create photos as close to his experience with the sneaker as possible, in hopes that other people would relate to it. “What the sneaker represents to me as a kid growing up? I would save up to buy Air Force 1, and being able to represent my grandpa and little brother in my mother’s kitchen in the house I grew up in was an amazing feeling.”
In the kitchen were functional Dominican souvenirs that populate most Dominican-American homes. The 26-year-old photographer felt it represented a love for Dominican culture, with the kitchen connecting to food. He worked with stylist Nathalie Gonzalez who hand-painted and stitched the clothing and worked with him from the beginning while building the concept.
Big thanks to @nikenyc for letting us play 🇩🇴✨ Models: @1xylorique @abril_amp Wardrobe: @bocaderosa Make up: @mmvglam De Lo Mío AF1’s by @ceze.p Photo assistants: @yo_cyn @jorgeeist Earrings by: @kasa.kava / @uncouthyouth #teamnike #s23nyc #delomio @emilyanadu 🙏🏽
A post shared by Alberto Vargas (@avargasphoto) on Nov 9, 2018 at 7:27pm PST