NEW YORK — The entrance to the Nike iD Studio at 255 Elizabeth Street in lower Manhattan is so discreet it barely registers, but that's the point.
"Nike iD delivers a one-on-one guided design experience to select guests by appointment," according to the company.
The Nike iD Studio sells exclusivity, newness and the notion of shopping as a status event. Nike iD Studio has an egalitarian cousin, NikeiD.com, a Web site started in 1999 that gives consumers similar results without the perks of the studio. And the company has relaunched the site with new shoe models that can be customized, such as Dunk, Presto, Rift, FC, Air 180 and Nike Free and a Soul of Brasil product collection that bowed on March 31.
In an effort to improve the online design process, Nike iD introduced inspiration "colorways," which give users four colors as a starting point for their design. For the first time, the Web site utilizes advanced animation that is being duplicated at Niketown kiosks in the U.S. and Europe.
Customizing apparel and footwear doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive. Indeed, mass merchant Target introduced custom clothing for men and women, Target to a T, on its Web site, with women's chinos and jeans selling for $34.99.
"The cost is the regular retail price of the footwear, plus a $10 to $20 custom design fee and domestic shipping costs," said a Nike iD spokeswoman.
For sneaker freaks, the studio is the Holy Grail. It has "an ultralimited capacity," according to the Web site. "Waiting lists are long and at this point closed to new requests." In addition to celebrities and athletes, "select" guests include friends and relatives of employees and customers with whom the company has a relationship.
Beth Greenwald falls into the latter category. On Wednesday she walked into the Nike iD Studio pumped to design and purchase a pair of shoes. A concierge led the way from the reception area, which could have been a dentist's office if not for the retro chic decor, to the studio, where three video monitors played endless loops of Nike footage. Three pods, each equipped with a leather couch, coffee table and library of design books — from "Marc Newson" to "Radical Album Cover Art Sampler 3"— are used to help the creative process.Greenwald knew exactly what she wanted. "The Air Rift," which cost about $100, she said. "I've had no less than 10 pairs."
"That's great," said Izzy Mateo, a design specialist, flipping on a Samsung computer. "It's a high-performance running shoe."
There are dozens of color choices for the base, sockliners, outsole, strap, eyelet, trim, midsole and bootie. It takes two to three weeks to receive the finished shoes by mail. "Let's try the purple for the outsole," Greenwald said. "I know that's ridiculous."
Mateo responded, "Absolutely not. Make it a color that will make you happy."
The studio is booked for the first two months, but starting today customers may log on to NikeiD.com to register for the chance to make an appointment at 255 Elizabeth Street.
There are said to be plans to open smaller iD units in Berlin, Paris and Milan. The Nike spokeswoman declined to comment, saying, "We see growth with Nike iD studios."
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