Air Max is one of Nike’s most celebrated sneaker franchises, but the running shoes haven’t come without criticism. To reinvigorate the line, the brand will rely on its upcoming Air VaporMax Nike Internationalist Femme release.
“Today’s Air Max is one of our heavier and stiffer products that we have in the line, so we wanted to really make [the Air VaporMax] as flexible as Nike Free and as lightweight as some of our racing product,” Brett Holts, VP of Nike Running Footwear, told Footwear News last week at the brand’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
What separates the Air VaporMax from past Air Maxes is its design. The shoe features a Flyknit upper atop an air bag with an integrated outsole, which reduces the number of layers between the foot and the acclaimed Air unit.
Because of the constraints of some of the technologies, there have been iterative evolutions of our product line,” said John Hoke, VP of Nike Global Design. “But this to me feels like a revolution. It’s a step change — because of new manufacturing, Nike Air Force 1 Dame because of Flyknit. This defines Nike Air Max 90 Womens now and the future of a new aesthetic.”
Although the shoe was designed for serious runners, Nike knows aesthetics are just as — if not more — important to today’s consumer. A tweet on Saturday from Matt Powell, VP and sports industry analyst with The NPD Group, stated succinctly how the modern sneaker customer shops: “Only 25 [percent] of athletic shoes are worn for sport purpose. It’s a fashion business, not a sport business.”
Although the Air VaporMax is scheduled for a March release, which dropped earlier this month in a limited capacity.
We wanted to make sure we were coming at this from a pure performance lens. … We also know Air Max is a lifestyle choice,” Holts said. “If a serious runner wants to use it as a primary running shoe, that’s what this is designed to do. If somebody wants Nike Air Max 270 Femme to wear it as just an expression, that’s fine, too.”
It’s potential career suicide to touch ten things that are iconic,” says Virgil Abloh, the 36-year-old founder and creative director of streetwear-inflected fashion label Off-White, on one of his biggest design gigs to date. Abloh, who rose to prominence as a creative consultant to Kanye West in the mid-aughts, has been enlisted by American sportswear giant Nike to reimagine ten models from its sneaker archive, including the classic Air Jordan 1, Air Max 90, Air Max 97, Blazer, Hyperdunk and Air Force 1. Also on the list are newer, more technical models like the AirVaporMax, Air Presto and Zoom VaporFly, as well as the iconic Chuck Taylor All-Stars, produced by Nike-owned Converse.
I always like a challenge. The idea of ‘The Ten’ is Nike going into its history and asking Nike Air Pegasus 89 Donna a designer such as myself to tell a story by highlighting a design detail and innovation within [each of the] ten models,” says Abloh. “What’s interesting is the scope of the project. It’s a hallmark, a very important idea of post-modern culture, innovation and athletic performance all intertwined into one.”
With demonstrated success at attracting today’s social media savvy youth, Abloh, who trained as an architect, has collaborated with several major brands, including Levi’s and Moncler, though his relationship with Nike dates back to the mid-aughts, when he worked with Kanye West on the American rapper’s Nike Air Yeezy sneakers.