Exclusive: Nike Is Taking Its Trainers In A Futuristic New Direction
Nike is a global powerhouse. Whether you’re Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z or, well, us, Nike goods have been worn and loved by pretty much everyone. With a team of footwear designers, sitting under the umbrella Fuel, Nike has a dedication to providing the best trainers the world has ever seen.
You may have seen earlier this month that Nike has developed a trainer specifically for ISPA, one part of Nike’s footwear initiative. “ISPA is an acronym standing for Improvise, Scavenge, Protect and Adapt, and these are our four design philosophies that we work under when producing a product,” explains Shamees Aden, footwear designer for Nike. “So we are problem-solving for people in built-up environments such as here in cities.”
The job of ISPA is to provide groundbreaking products capable of tackling the unique and shifting challenges of the human-made environment. Trainers with protective bags to protect your feet from London’s heaviest of showers? Yep, Nike does them, and they’re down to the ISPA design team.
This month marks the 15th anniversary of Dover Street Market and ISPA has teamed up with London's coolest concept store. The result is a futuristic, hand-dyed collection that infuses Nike's bold style with functional design.
The centrepiece of the collection is a trainer like no other, designed by Aden. The Vapormax ISPA Gator trainers take into account the daily commuter and have been designed with Nike Innovation (known as NXT in-house) to cater to the wearer’s needs, namely featuring an all-encompassing shroud around the foot, because "when you are walking around in your Vapormax and it rains, your shoes are totally soaked".
Ahead of the launch, we spoke to Aden to find out about the future of footwear over at Nike.
GQ: How did you get into designing trainers?
SA: "It started off on my final degree show that I did at Central Saint Martins on a course called Material Futures, and the project was about speculating footwear design in the future, the next 50 years. I felt that Nike and footwear design in particular were at the forefront of embracing future and emerging technologies. I have always worn trainers, I have always done sports, but for me the most important thing that drew me to footwear, as opposed to apparel and garment fashion design, is that they were really pushing the boundaries."
What styles stood out to you?
"I think the most innovative product Nike has done is the Flyknit. That was one of the things I was just in awe over. I am obsessed with where that will go in the future. It is a game changer. It has completely transformed the way footwear is designed and has also been adopted by other brands as well."
So what ISPA?
"We work in a team called Fuel at Nike. We have three categories under that Fuel umbrella: collabs where we work with fashion designers such as Virgil Abloh or Sacai; entertainment collabs with rappers such as Skepta or Kendrick Lamar; and then we have a third, which is about innovation.
"We are problem-solving. We will scavenge from Nike Innovation internally, because the explorations they are doing into footwear design is so vast, but on the whole we work to create functional shoes. We don’t input a design aesthetic, and the products that we have designed, like the one that is in Dover Street Market’s anniversary collection, are completely functionality led."
Would you say science is shifting the future?
"Science is really fundamental in creating a true and authentic product. Emerging technologies and innovations can help problem-solve. One example is the nurse shoe. That was really an example of where science helped to formulate the product."
What is special about the trainers you have designed for DSM?
"So we had to develop existing footwear, so I took apparel from raincoats that Nike already have, and I reappropriated it onto the shoes. This is how we created this product and it is removable, so you have the option to take it off. It has a little Velcro strap at the back and it has this interlocking cage system underneath. So you basically have two shoes in one – and it changes the whole look of the shoe when the weather changes and you want to adapt to your environment. This is an example of how ISPA innovation frames the overall look of the trainer."