To say musician John Mayer is a fan of German technical brand Acronym would be an understatement.
Mayer, an avid collector of the brand known for its well-crafted, functional aesthetic, sat onstage with its co-chief executive officer Errolson Hugh as the two talked up Acronym’s latest collaboration with Nike, the Air VaporMax Moc 2. The panel, which took over a Thirties theater in Los Feliz Friday, is part of Nike’s weekend festivities around the Air VaporMax x Acronym’s global release that also includes a pop-up Nike Air Gallery featuring the work of local artists, along with workshops.
“I think a lot of people were expecting us to put zippers and buckles and magnetic parts,” Errolson said of design twists that have become synonymous with Acronym’s Nike collaborations. “When we did that on the previous three shoes, those were to change the behavior you had with the shoe to make it easier to put on and take off. But with this shoe, the way it works is so great that we didn’t really feel the need to. If we would have done it, then what that would have been was taking something technical and turning it into ornamentation. We really wanted to avoid that actually.”
Instead, the designer charged himself with doing something he said used a “completely different tool set,” a task that’s the norm for Hugh with any project.
“In terms of pushing things forward, that’s the way Acronym has evolved over time,” Hugh said. “It’s our job really to do that. We were talking earlier today about being broad and shallow or narrow and deep. It’s two different approaches to design and Acronym is definitely on the narrow but deep side. It’s not for everybody. It’s hard to get. It’s difficult to make, but because of those limitations you can explore something in a very extreme manner and that’s what we’ve become known for and it’s also what we’re good at.”
The unveiling of Acronym’s collaboration with Nike — of which Mayer also stars marketing materials for the shoe — had nothing to do with a nod to heritage as is the case for many sportswear firms today in trying to ride the wave of nostalgia.
Mayer applauded the VaporMax silhouette in general for the specific reason that it forges a new design reference.
“I love how there’s no previous context for this,” Mayer said. “There’s a context for Air Force 1. It means something. It’s related to whose worn it, what it means, what division of lifestyle is that. When I first saw the VaporMax, I was like ‘Oh, this isn’t anybody’s yet. This can be applied in any way.’ It still is a very young silhouette that, because it doesn’t have a history as you put it on before you leave the house, you’re not saying ‘Is this too blank? Is this too that?’”
Mayer, who was wearing an Acronym jacket from 2009, pointed to the garment and its pairing with the new VaporMax as the sign of what he said is a great designer.
“This isn’t even out yet and this is almost 10 years old, and they look like they came out on the same day, right?” Mayer said pointing to his outfit.
The ability to think beyond what works and what doesn’t is part of the process and why, in cases of sneaker collaborations, the recasting of a classic — or even something new — oftentimes can polarize a community. That happens, Mayer pointed out, with any designer or artist’s vision and what he called the calibration time between when something is released and when an individual necessarily “gets” the vision.
“It’s this balance. People want something that they identify as familiar but they don’t want something that is identical and there’s this gap between what you’ve seen before and what you haven’t seen before,” he said. “I imagine if you ask people to quantify how far do you want that gap to go, because you don’t want to see what you already know but you don’t want to see things that you can’t relate to. What you want to do is trust the people who you admire to do some of the thinking ahead of time and say ‘Look, I figured out a way for the next part of this. Come with me.’”
Saturday perhaps provided a good indication of just how long it’s taken the market to “get” Hugh’s vision with the VaporMax Moc 2: The shoes, which were initially released that day exclusively online at Acronym, were already sold out by morning.