Nike’s release of The 1 Reimagined women’s sneaker collection retooled plenty for the sports firm, from the revamp of two of the firm’s most iconic styles to a reengineered design process.
In the end, when the 10-piece collection launches Feb. 7 in New York, it’s not only a signal of how the company is looking at its women’s business but how it’s bending the playbook on the design process to move in step with the market.
“At Nike, our design approach always starts with the athlete insight,” said NikeWomen senior creative director Maria Vu. “It’s athlete with an asterisk, the everyday athlete, and we really felt that we had an interesting opportunity for women and sneakers really untapped. So having that insight in mind, this project came together with just the idea of ‘Hey, why don’t we do something unique and different for women that really addresses the dimensions of what it means to be a woman.’”
Unlike other design processes for a collection, Nike pooled 14 individuals from across disciplines: 10 designers, two material designers and two color designers. The collective was sent to London to focus solely on the task of creating a collection for the female consumer via refreshed versions of the Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1. The group created the concept in a week, designed in another week, tech packed in the third week and then had samples in two weeks. Put more succinctly, the process totaled five weeks versus the typical 10 months.
“The super group was put together to see what we could do with these amazing icons,” said Georgina James, senior creative director of women’s footwear for Nike Sportswear. “We’ve got such an interesting story to tell and DNA at Nike, and we’d never taken two shoes and designed them through the lens of a female athlete. We know when we’re onto something good and we want to make sure we’re staying close to our consumer and make sure we’re delivering her trend-right solutions, so it was about trying to get product to her as quickly as we could.”
The result is a collection of footwear that drew inspiration from different archetypes, with pieces neutral in color palette incorporating materials such as leather, suede and velvet. Within the collection is the AF1 Lover XX, which is a slip-on mule, or the AJ1 Jester XX, that turns the Air Jordan 1 into a boot with zipper detailing. The 1 Reimagined retails from $120 to $160.
Is the pendulum necessarily swinging from a more performance-based approach to greater focus on style? That’s not necessarily the way to view it, said Marie Crow, material design director for Nike Sportswear and NikeWomen.
“The [design] brief really was about finding new ways of working as a team and new ways to reinterpret the design aesthetic and style choice,” Crow said.
Vu added the 1 Reimagined design exercise was about seeing what happens when different talent comes together for a single project, leveraging Nike’s access to data to operate rapidly at scale.
For the broader women’s business, the company’s collective efforts — the 1 Reimagined included — is about speaking to what Amy Montagne, vice president and general manager of NikeWomen, called the “holistic lifestyle” of the customer.
“We’ve always continued to stay focused on those athletes, their voice, what they need to help perform and I think that’s always the ground spot and place for us,” Montagne said. “Over the last few months, we’ve continued to look at supercharging our team.”
On that last note, she said, it’s about allocating all resources available into projects along with product and design teams dedicated to whatever the task at hand may be, whether it’s a running-specific product, CrossFit, yoga and on.
“We continue to focus back to our consumer and what we’re seeing with women around the world is this incredible appetite for newness and choice, and their expectations are higher than ever,” Montagne said. “It’s about really ensuring we’re connecting with them.…[The 1 Reimagined] is just one example of hopefully many you’ll see coming from us. It’s super energizing because it helps us think through a variety of different projects.”