For more than 50 years, Nike has introduced the world to an array of athletic sportswear while partnering with countless celebrities. But the average Nike connoisseur may find the extreme dichotomy of its recent collaborations a bit surprising.
Take, for instance, its new luxury line of men’s and women’s sneakers and athleisure apparel by French fashion designer and creative director of Balmain, Olivier Rousteing.
Inspired by the Balmain designer’s longtime passion for soccer, the NikeLab x Olivier Rousteing: Football Nouveau collection integrates the iconic style of the sport with modern silhouettes and touches of gold and black.
According to Rousteing, above, black represents the sleek, chic and timeless aspect of the game while gold is all about victory and being a champion.
“Olivier was obsessed with the complete look, making sure each piece worked together — not just within the men’s and women’s collections, but also between the two,” notes Jarrett Reynolds, NikeLab Senior Apparel Design Director. “At every design review, he’d ask, ‘Would a football player really wear that?’ That question helped keep the collection rooted in sport.”
“Olivier is meticulous about the details, with a passion for finding clever ways to embellish existing structures,” stated NikeLab Senior Footwear Innovation Design Director Nate Jobe. “This obsession with finishing manifests itself especially well in the Magista and the Mercurial. In each model, we’ve embroidered patterns into the Flyknit for the first time, which creates a completely new expression of the technology.”
As French football player and one of the faces of the collection, Laure Boulleau, said, “Sport is played with style, which makes fashion part of football.” So Nike is combining glamour with sports and reinventing the off-pitch look of football through various pieces in the line, such as Rousteing’s favorite: the NikeLab N98 Jacket X OR.
Available in men’s and women’s versions, the outerwear was inspired by the look of an iconic soccer jacket but given a longer length, more form-fitting shape, gold framing and an embroidered woven crest placed over the heart.
In sharp contrast to this new high fashion line is the Nike SB Dunk Low Premium sneaker, a retro-style shoe designed with the same mocha and hunter green color scheme as the iconic Starbucks logo. Sure to be popular with fans of the global coffee juggernaut, some may find this sneaker to be an odd departure from Nike’s usual exploits.
Not as strange, perhaps, as Nike’s Ky-Rie 2 sneaker (a limited edition Krispy Kreme-themed shoe promoted by Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving) or the Nike SB Dunk High Premium “Waffle” (a shoe inspired by the hearty chicken and waffles breakfast, with a syrupy Nike swoosh and waffle pattern).
Both custom designs are sure to whet the appetite of some, while making other brand loyalists cringe.
What creative collaboration will Nike strike next? Perhaps a Diane von Furstenberg wrap shoe? Or will it aim for a more mass-market appeal with shoes inspired by other everyday snacks? Only time will tell, but the brand is sure to continue exploring creative partnerships that give new meaning to its tagline: “Just Do It.”
—Matt Emert is a Senior Consultant in the Verbal Identity group at Interbrand New York