A couple of weeks ago we jetted over to Madrid for Nike’s 2014 SneakerBall event. Just like it says on the tin, SneakerBall is a celebration of sneakers and basketball, and saw teams from across Europe battle it out on the half court, in Nike’s Search for the Baddest competition. Alongside the comp, go-to sneaker head and stand up guy Gary Warnett curated a Genealogy of Basketball Sneakers exhibition – a selection of the most influential / most loved Nike basketball styles to have come into existence over the past few decades. Pure geekery.
Pre-event, we went along to an open discussion between Gary, Nike Sportswear Design Director Marc Dolce, and French writer, filmmaker and sneakerhead, Thibaut de Longville. Deliberating on all things central to sneaker culture, the crux of the talk was the ongoing presence and relevance of the Air Force 1 – a style that is unique in that it’s come up came almost entirely from the street; no iconic ad campaigns, no real star endorsement; just love. We caught up with Marc for a quick chat afterwards — amongst other things, he’s the guy behind the 1/2 Cent, Barkleyposite, Air Penny and Lunar Force 1 designs, so a pretty seasoned designer to say the least. The complete interview was published over on SLAMXHYPE — check out an extract below and head over here for the full feature.
A lot of what you do isn’t so much design, but re-design — like taking influence from the Air Force 1 and turning it into the Lunar Force 1, for example. What are the considerations that need to be taken into account when you’re evolving an iconic product?
I think innovation is really just an obsession with wanting to make a product better. We took Air Force and made it Lunar Force, and now we’ve done Lunar Force 2, which is basically Lunar Force 2014. Really we designed the first one, and found that it worked well, and that there were things we could leverage. So we went back and tried to make it even better. It was really an obsession with refinement of detail.
Was it intimidating working on a sneaker with that sort of legacy?
Yeah, I think it’s easier to create a shoe from scratch than it is to re-develop an icon. With something brand new, there’s no expectations or pre-conceived notions of what there is or should be. With an icon, there’s something that is loved and revered by many. It’s like, ‘don’t mess my shoe up’ – which is the way it will always be with some people. But if we truly have the vision, then it’s up to us to allow the consumer to see it. Let them come on a journey with us.
People expect it from Nike, though — you don’t expect a certain Nike model to stay in one format forever. Everyone’s favorite sneakers have continued to evolve at Nike.
Yeah, but also there are certain people who want their shoes to stay exactly the same, so we try to issue retro shoes as true to their original form as possible. Then there’s a time to innovate the retro. Then there’s new space. So there is classic, hybrid and new. If we can work on all three of those and make families – which is what we’re trying to do for the AF1 – we’re not gonna get rid of the original. We’re just gonna try to make it slightly better, then we’re gonna add newer ideas that will help take it to a new space.