With the latest effort against these iconic silhouettes, The 1 Reimagined, a discrete group of internal Nike designers rethink the Nike Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1 for the first time. The 14 women behind the project represent distinct skill sets within Nike’s more than 1,000-strong design group. Among them are colorists and materials specialists, as well as men’s and women’s mainline footwear designers. The focus of their work was to establish five new articulations of both icons, unrestrained from concerns beyond pure design.
Here’s how it happened:
At root, The 1 Reimagined is a project predicated on shaking things up. With that in mind, Footwear Director Andy Caine picked the 14 participants with a clear objective consideration. “The genesis of creativity is diversity,” he says. “From a design point of view, each of the designers has a very unique background and personality. Our theory is that when you mix diverse creative talents you realize some magic.”
Caine tapped Georgina James to lead the group, which includes Marie Crow, Magnhild Disington, Jacqueline Schoeffel and Chiyo Takahashi from color and material, along with footwear designers Shamees Aden, Reba Brammer, Melusine Dieudonne, Jin Hong, Angela Martin, Kara Nykreim, Marie Odinot, Louisa Page and Jesi Small. Their brief: “Make some cool shit.” Their time frame from brief to final design: Two weeks.
Shamees Aden, Footwear Innovation Designer
Reba Brammer, Footwear Innovation Designer
Marie Crow, Materials Design Director
Melusine Dieudonne, Footwear Designer
Magnhild Disington, Materials Design Director
Jin Hong, Senior Footwear Designer
Georgina James, Senior Footwear Creative Director
Angela Martin, Senior Footwear Designer
Kara Nykreim, Footwear Designer
Marie Odinot, Footwear Designer
Louisa Page, Senior Footwear Designer
Jacqueline Schoeffel, Color Design Director
Jesi Small, Footwear Product Design Lead
Chiyo Takahashi, Senior Color Design Director
“Everyone was so excited to work on a project and collaborate together with a focus on women’s product,” notes James.
Aware of the tight timeframe, she initially pulled the group into meetings at Blue Ribbon Studios, Nike WHQ’s integrated design space. There, the women first got to grips with their respective talents — as many were working together for the first time — and started to flesh out prospective plans.
“We spent about a week here putting pen to paper to nail down what our goals were,” says James.
“We’re diverse, talented and strong-minded.”
– Georgina James
During that time, the group started by pulling and grouping imagery, intent on defining the dimensions that make a woman. They discussed the athletic mindset and fashion trends — both in isolation and where the dots can and do connect. Additionally, they examined the elements of each of the shoes, both initially designed by men for male athletes, which have enticed female wearers and could be further accentuated. All these considerations helped with the process of categorization.
Eventually, the groupings formed five pronounced personas: explorer, lover, sage, rebel and jester. James declared these archetypes and combined them with a set of rules (covering how the designers were to balance critical candor and respect while working) as the lone parameters to follow during the project’s next steps.
Once initial ideas were on paper, the group headed to London. The location was chosen for two reasons. First, Nike’s London BRS studio provided space from the daily activity at WHQ. Second, as Caine notes, “London is a fashion hub.” Near the office you have the likes of Samuel Ross and J.W. Anderson — both pioneers in their own right.
“It was luxury to work on one project for one week and not think about anything else,” says James, while Crow notes that the location was “exciting” as it allowed observation of how people “were wearing sneakers, styling them and, ultimately, what was relevant.”
But it was also quick. With just four days, the group had to deliver. James ensured that the hard work was balanced — fueling the integrated creative impulse with the proper down time.
The test, of course, was to translate the luxury of space (offering focus) and the excitement of observation (a freedom to explore) into a cohesive set of shoes. The designers broke into two groups, one for the AF1 (Dieudonne, Disington, Martin, Nykreim, Odinot, Page and Schoeffel) and the other for the AJ1 (Aden, Brammer, Crow, Hong, Small and Takahashi).
“The biggest challenge actually was trying to get the 10 shoes to have their own personality but still connect,” says James.
One solution came as, within the groups, members gravitated to individual archetypes almost naturally — leading the styling of single shoes and relying on the respective expertise of teammates to refine ideas. Another answer, James notes, was through color and materials.
Crow shares that they explored expressive color and materials for the collection but the group ultimately decided on a muted palette. “We soon realized that the silhouette had to be the headliner. Color and materials had to be complimentary and boldly wearable. So we looked at different blockings and different details that we could accentuate,” she says.
After the four (working days) in London, 10 radical shoes were designed, which was a testament indeed to the power of diverse, creative and tight collaboration.
Within The 1 Reimagined, the 14 designers realized a number of first-time efforts against the storied icons. These are demonstrations of the freedom granted and ideas fostered, and are highlighted by the following elements:
The tallest stack height ever on an AF1 (12mm), from a new tooling developed for the AF1 LOVER XX and AF1 SAGE XX.
The first AF1 Mule in the AF1 LOVER XX
A progressive back-to-front construction, complete with corset lacing, on the AF1 REBEL XX
CHECK OUT THE COLLECTION
AF1 EXPLORER XX: Protective leathers, d-ring hardware and an external tongue give this shoe a utilitarian feel.
Nike’s ever-growing focus on women continues with the announcement of UNLACED, a future mobile and brick-and-mortar destination for the booming demographic of female Nike loyalists. UNLACED will be curated by female stylists and creatives for a one-of-a-kind experience tailored to women who not only embrace physical wellness and activity, but are also avid hobbyists in the world of sneaker culture. Set to launch digitally on March 27th, Nike UNLACED will begin to offer exclusive product such as new colorways of the Reimagined collection, extended sizing as seen in the upcoming OFF WHITE x Air Jordan 1, exclusive services such as one-on-one shopping and same-day delivery, and unique retail experiences influenced by creatives from NYC, Shanghai, Paris, London, and more.
The ever-growing demand for in-touch and elevated product for women has been an industry catalyst for years. These types of retail endeavors are key as 70% of every dollar spent are by women, and the two-pronged digital and physical approach set forth by UNLACED is an experience that has yet to exist in the world of sneakers. Again, UNLACED will launch digitally on March 27th, with brick-and-mortar locations launching in Fall 2018. See the first preview of Nike UNLACED in Paris below.
FOUR WAYS NIKE IS THINKING ABOUT WOMEN’S SNEAKERS DIFFERENTLY
This effort includes supporting barrier-breaking athletes, from rebel runner Joan Benoit Samuelson (the first woman to claim marathon gold) to record-setting tennis great Serena Williams (owner of 23 major titles). Countless other star athletes have also reached the pinnacle of their sport with Nike — on the basketball court, the track, the football pitch and beyond — and each helps to progress opportunities for women in sport.
Nike also encourages the progress of professional and everyday athletes through innovation. Women’s-specific design solutions have ranged from a consistent offering of footwear to recent developments that aim to broaden women’s access to sport, such as the Nike Pro Hijab and plus-sizing for athletic apparel.
One thing that connects all women in sport is sneakers. As a performance tool and lifestyle accessory, the sneaker is a transcendent symbol of athletic and stylistic identity. Certain styles can also reveal the wearer’s soul by expressing their ethos and beliefs — especially when these intertwine with sustainable builds and materials.
All three of these elements — athletes, innovation and product — come together in 2018 as Nike initiates four new ways of thinking about sneakers for women. Here’s how this approach is beginning to shape up.
Nike will give women access to the most coveted Nike collaborations, including the next releases from Virgil Abloh x Nike The TEN.
Unisex sizing on select classic Jordan styles and collaborative collections such as Virgil Abloh x Nike The TENrecognizes the universality of sneaker culture and reduces the frustration of missing out due to size unavailability. In the fall, expanded sizes will extend to iconic silos, including the Nike Air Force 1 and Air Max lines, providing ever-increasing options to collect, rock or stock.
UNIQUE RETAIL EXPERIENCES
Iconic styles made with sustainable materials, including the Nike Flyleather Classic Cortez that’s made with 50 percent recycled leather fibers, will be a Nike Unlaced mainstay.
A curated selection of sneakers, inclusive of expanded sizes, innovative performance styles and iconic collaborations, presents a holistic view that forms the backbone of Nike Unlaced, NIKE, Inc.’s new sneaker destination for women.
Nike Unlaced is a global digital and retail concept that follows a Nike dot-com evolution in Europe, which provided distinction for women through product styling and local curators. (In North America, the Nike x Nordstrom sneaker boutique retail and digital experience, co-created with Olivia Kim, also served as a precursor.) Local Nike Unlaced product curations by influential creatives and stylists from New York, Paris, London, Shanghai and more are coming soon.
Through Nike Unlaced, women will have access to a broad variety of colorways in performance footwear, including the Nike Epic React Flyknit running shoe, and thus wider styling options.
From personalized styling to VIP member experiences (including same-day delivery and exclusive hours), these services offered by Nike Unlaced are designed to increase connectivity and access to sneakers for women. For example, members will have the opportunity to arrange one-on-one appointments with guest stylists and take their prized selections home in specialized packaging.
For its second go-around, The 1 Reimagined collection will be featured in reworked bright, flooded color schemes.
As sneakers transcended sport and initiated street-style trends, collaboration became an integral component of sneaker culture, blossoming into a symbiotic relationship between brands and external creative communities.
That community has been predominantly male. However, in pushing new female voices, Nike is challenging the sneaker status quo.
In recent years, this has been propelled by curator-led retail partnerships (for example, the aforementioned Kim and Nordstrom boutique). Creative endeavors with A.L.C.’s Andrea Lieberman and the International Girls Crew on the iconic Nike Cortez have also given new scope to sneaker collaborations; another highlight is the recent The 1 Reimagined project, Nike’s first collection of footwear designed entirely by a 14-strong female design collective.
These projects define the future state of footwear for women, where more curation and collaboration can be expected, but also an increase in female representation is poised to manifest new ideas not just for women but all sneaker enthusiasts.
The line had begun forming at 3 p.m., though the time varied according to whom you asked. A young American Marine, Claude Martin, at the back of the line — the very back, since after less than an hour, the hired security forbade any more people from lining up — said he had heard whispers that the earliest comers had arrived at 3 a.m.
It was a damp Tuesday evening in London, but they waited down the block and around the corner to get in, mostly young men, mostly in sneakers, at least one with a Supreme bag.
It wasn’t a so-called product drop. It was an opening at the Gagosian Gallery. “We have never had a lineup around the block to get into an exhibition,” said Nick Simunovic, the director at Gagosian Hong Kong.
The occasion was the opening of “Future History,” a collaborative exhibition by Virgil Abloh, the American designer behind Off-White, and Takashi Murakami, the Japanese fine artist whose menagerie of adorable cartoon monsters have become pop totems (and the guest stars on a best-selling line of Louis Vuitton accessories).
Each man is a hero of the “hypebeast” community, and they came together last year at ComplexCon, the annual convention at which hypebeasts swarm. Mr. Abloh and Mr. Murakami had set up a silk-screen station to create T-shirts together and were mobbed.
“I never knew sneakerheads,” Mr. Murakami said of his first time at ComplexCon. “I said, ‘What is happening?’ I am walking around this convention, and everyone knows my face.” He imitated the fanboys he encountered in a gasp: “‘Oh my God, Takashi Murakami, oh my God, oh my God!’” Then he giggled in disbelief: “What?”
ComplexCon had led here to Gagosian, the gallery that represents Mr. Murakami, for which, over the course of about two and a half months, he and Mr. Abloh collaborated on paintings and sculptures. Mr. Murakami made a large sculpture of one of his smiling flower characters; Mr. Abloh built a greenhouse around it. Mr. Abloh requested a screen print of an image from a 17th-century self-portrait by Gian Lorenzo Bernini; Mr. Murakami screened the mouselike ears of his character Mr. DOB on top.
“Truth be told, I don’t go into these things knowing if they’ll work,” Mr. Abloh said.
The day before, Mr. Abloh, in T-shirt and camouflage pants, and Mr. Murakami, in baggy sweats and Off-White Nikes, had installed the show and discussed their working process.
“My position is, he’s the master, I’m the labor,” Mr. Murakami said. They had come together each with their own thoughts and bounced them off each other, and developed ideas quickly.
“From the idea to do the show to what some of these first pieces would be was, maybe, two minutes,” Mr. Abloh said. Both men’s icons are instantly recognizable in each piece — Mr. Abloh’s ever-present air quotes, Mr. Murakami’s characters — but here they’re presented as co-signed artworks, even if Mr. Abloh’s usual media are clothes and shoes.
“When I’m designing a shoe, I’m employing ideas from art, everything I’ve seen, and it’s manifesting itself in a shoe,” he said. “Why not cement them in serious art pieces? That’s what these four walls do, more than a retail store.” He paused at a sculpture of a Murakami character rising off a base made from an Off-White logo mark. “I could see this in a retail space,” he said. “I could also see it in a home of a billionaire.”
It could well end up in one. Even before the exhibition’s opening, half of the pieces had been sold. “The feedback and results have been incredible,” said Mr. Simunovic, the gallery’s liaison to Mr. Murakami. “We sold a painting today, for example, to a 21-year-old who had never worked with the gallery before.” The gallery does not disclose artwork pricing.
For Mr. Abloh, part of the project’s appeal was bringing his dedicated fan base into contact with the new horizons of the art world. In 2019, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago will stage the first museum retrospective of his work. “It’s generational,” he said. “I was born in 1980. I always thought that us buying a rare Supreme shirt is like buying a print for a previous generation.”
Mr. Abloh and Mr. Murakami did design an edition of 400 T-shirts to be sold on the Gagosian website, which will be finished by hand as an entry-level offering; they quickly sold out. But none were for sale the night of the opening, and the lines formed anyway. (Many of those waiting were hoping that the artists would sign their sneakers and shuffled around the gallery, once they were finally let in, in socks.)
Mr. Murakami, who between the installation and the opening had traded his hygienic face mask (he had a slight cold) for one fashioned out of a Nike sneaker, one of Mr. Abloh’s signature zip ties and a bit of camouflage print from his Louis Vuitton collaboration, seemed delighted. He sneaked out of the gallery to take selfies with those waiting. (“How’s the population in London of sneakerheads?” he had wondered in all seriousness the day before. “I really want to welcome the new audience.”)
“The world moves as fast as Instagram scrolls,” Mr. Abloh said. “What excites me more is the physical. I think that will be rewarding. That’s my barometer: Is the piece done? Is it good enough? Is it worthy of someone’s time?”
Outside, they were still waiting. Even Mr. Martin, the marine. “I’m not going to get in,” he said, with admirable even temper. There was over an hour to go. Luckily, the exhibition remains up through April 7.
You have a lot of loose bits of paper and sketches in this office. What do you like to draw?
Sneakers, quick body sketches, architectural retail spaces. I’m dyslexic, so my first real language was drawing. Even at the youngest age I can recall, I wasn’t necessarily interested in the essay or the text, I was graphically designing the header. I doodled everything. That was the way I communicated.
I find that I listen better when my hand is busy. And I find that when I’m listening intently and I’m gesturally moving my pen, some interesting things come out. They’re not perfect, they’re not final, but they’re a glimpse of an idea. It helps me process, helps me stay focused. I came to this idea that my dyslexia wasn’t actually a burden — it was a gift because it made me look at the world differently.
<iframe title=”New York Times Video – Embed Player” width=”480″ height=”321″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” allowfullscreen=”true” marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ id=”nyt_video_player” src=”https://static01.nyt.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000005428870″></iframe>
For the last four weeks of the international Fashion Week marathon, we’ve been looking for a defining fashion moment. Was it Raf Simons’s Warhol-infused American horror story at Calvin Klein?Marc Jacobs’s souped-up, diva sportswear with turbans? Demna Gvasalia’s latest mix of streetwear and couture kitsch at Balenciaga? Or the bohemian fantasy of Jonathan Anderson’s Loewe, with its handcrafted textures and laid-back elegance?
It was not until the final show of the season, Louis Vuitton, that it became clear the moment had arrived at last. Models emerged wearing resplendent 18th-century men’s coats threaded in gold, matched with pastel silk running shorts and sneakers whose soles had been pumped up. By the time long chiffon dresses and nearly see-through, jeans-cut pants in silver, white, or sky blue with a tiny ruffle down the side arrived — again, with sneakers — it was as though a reset had occurred. Those other standout shows (to which we could add Céline and the ingenious Undercover) still had their merits, but none advanced a clearer vision of how to dress in 2018 than Nicolas Ghesquière.
Ghesquière said afterward that he decided on sneakers early in his design process, and didn’t consider a second option. That’s how girls move today, he said, and the shoes, with ankle-grazing tongues and beefy heels, did seem to propel the models slightly forward. For me, though, the most telling gesture was the jean-cut pants, with a side frill below the knees. Sports-inspired pants have been ubiquitous, except these were in stretch silk, so it made them just a little bit sheer and also polished. They’re sure to be widely copied.
The overall blend of the modern and the classical was not totally surprising, given Vuitton’s kingly approach to most things. The brand flew in a bunch of movie stars for the show, which was held on an illuminated white catwalk in a gallery of the Louvre lined with ancient stone, at the end of which was a sphinx. There’s a dinner at Versailles tonight for big spenders, and all week there have been VIP tours of the new Place Vendôme flagship, which features a huge, radiating metal sun on the façade, while inside, a contemporary rendering of young Louis XIV hangs amid new parquet floors, metal fixtures, and walls of the light-colored stone that dominates Paris.
My own tour of the elegant new store reminded me that Louis Vuitton is a huge luxury brand with an omnivorous clientele. Among the many novelties on display on the luggage floor is a steamer trunk designed as a kind of curiosity cabinet for collectors of Vuitton’s small box-shaped purses. It can be yours for roughly $100,000. Viewed in that context, Ghesquière’s fashion choices can seem awfully small and insignificant. But that’s the whole ballgame — it’s these small gestures of style that impart a sense of modernity and keep a brand relevant. He’s consistently been one of the few designers who understand that.