Just Collaborate It: The Best Nike Collaborations Of 2018
Some may say that the crème de la crème for any brand, store or individual would be to have a collaboration with a sportswear company. The ability to put your name on a sneaker, garment or item with a brand you’ve likely worn and paid homage in some way isn’t something to take for granted. While there’s adidas Originals, Converse, Reebok and co. the one that always stands out is the Portland giant, Nike.
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Having a collaboration with Nike is a bucket list feat for most designers, just imagine long years of working hard at your craft to all of a sudden being tapped on a shoulder to work on a project with the largest sportswear company on the planet - no easy task. You’ll probably be looking at those sketches you drew in school one day while you were bored in math, find that old Nike i-D you did on an Air Force One or even pick out your favourite shoe and think “how can I make this better?”.
In 2016 and 2017 adidas Originals definitely upped their collaborations with nearly a new project dropping each week. This year, not much has changed in the scene of collaborations, arguably they’re becoming saturated but Nike has definitely come to the table putting back into the consumers mind that they are the pinnacle of innovation and design.
A-COLD-WALL* x Nike Collection, Air Force One, Air Vomero +5
One of the more recent collaborations of the year for Nike was with British designer Samuel Ross and his imprint A-COLD-WALL*. Ross was already doing creative work for Nike in 2016 as he designed the packaging for the NikeLab x Kim Jones collection and the NikeLab x Stone Island release within the same year. His label A-COLD-WALL* was founded in 2015 and is inspired by the British class system utilising a lot of muted tones, DIY based garment techniques and a relationship between streetwear and Savile Row tailoring. In 2017 a small collaboration released between the two labels through an Air Force One High, the numbers were highly limited and it marked an important moment for Ross’ relationship with Nike.
This year Ross was given the opportunity to have a full collection collaboration with Nike through his label. The project sparked a range of technical activewear garments which included a multi-functional long coat, all-over print jersey with quilted forearm portions, track pants with adjustability behind the knee sections, and water-resistant caps. The collection was initially released at an exhibition on November 17th in London and followed a wider worldwide release on November 29th.
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Along with the garments the two brands collaborated on the Nike Zoom Vomero +5. The sneaker was kept to its original design in shape with added aggressive details such as the heel cup backing, Japanese nylon for water resistance and co-branding motifs along the shoe. Keeping it minimal the sneaker was released in a white colourway and a full black colourway at the same time the clothing collection dropped in London.
In a follow up to the collection two Nike Air Force Ones released on December 21st both coming in a white/grey and a black/grey. These Air Force Ones featured Nike’s new eco-friendly ‘Flyleather’ technology, which combines natural leather with recycled leather. Along with this additions such as a perforated Swoosh, a one piece toe box, insignia branding and a new lacing system highlights a deconstructed aesthetic inline to A-COLD-WALL*.
Comme des Garçons x Nike Air Max 180
A relationship that has lasted decades that has consistently developed and flourished is between Nike and Comme des Garçons. The sneaker world comes to a stand still whenever the two brands collide and work together on a project such as the Nike Air Vapormax that stole the show at Paris Fashion Week in 2017 or the Supreme x Comme des Garçons SHIRT x Nike Air Force One which released earlier this year.
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This year their collaboration on the Air Max 180 was showcased at Paris Fashion Week during Spring Summer 18 that was eventually released in three vibrant colourways utilising a hot pink as the base of each. Initially the sneakers were exclusively available at Dover Street Market followed by a wider release at select retailers and Nike themselves. For most Nike aficionado’s this release stands out for 2018 as the Japanese label still brings fresh ideas to the table with their work on Nike silhouettes as bold colours made a solid statement.
Photo: Sneaker News
ACRONYM x Nike Presto Mid
Since its release in 2016 the ACRONYM x Nike Presto Mid has been a fan favourite all over the world, its cutting edge design and technical details gave the sneaker a rugged all terrain demeanor. The shape itself features an extended ankle back collar, a two side zipper for entry and premium leather paneling while it sits on top of the iconic Nike Presto silhouette which first released in 2000 during the Sydney Olympic Games.
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ACRONYM creative director and former head of Nike ACG, Errolson Hugh has pioneered the trend of techwear where form, function and utility harmoniously coincide. Taking this ethos into his approach when designing the Presto Mids is clearly evident as the first generation of colourways are still highly sought after due to their limited release numbers. This year three more colourways have hit the market in a wild pink and blue, an athletic white and volt as well as a muted black and grey retailing for $200 USD. Each of the three new colourways also featured an eye catching white and black geometric style print along the exterior cage and toe guard.
AMBUSH x Nike Collection, Air Max 180
Yoon Ahn is a celebrated jewellery designer and one half of the brand AMBUSH based out of Tokyo, Japan. Within the last decade, Yoon's work has developed from custom pieces and commissions to a full clothing line for mens and womens. AMBUSH first began within experimental jewellery and showed its first ready-to-wear collection in 2016, since then the rise of AMBUSH has fast tracked Yoon to now being the jewellery designer for Dior Homme working alongside Kim Jones and Matthew Williams as well as having a Nike collaboration this year.
The apparel within the collaboration included tracksuiting with reflective 3M detailing, gold and silver metallic jackets, a faux fur jacket, a DRI-Fit Stretch bodysuit, a crop top, and fleece pants. The sneaker is a mid-top boot rendition of the Air Max 180 inspired by the archived Air Zoom Flight “The Glove”. The collection released in early December, with events in Tokyo, Shanghai and Paris. The Air Max 180 sneaker is set to release in Spring 2019.
“The Air Max 180 is the first pair of sneakers I ever bought with my own money. I wanted it so badly, having seen it in the pages of a magazine,” says Yoon, Creative Director of AMBUSH
UNDERCOVER x Nike React Element 87
In early March the Nike React Element 87 was unveiled on the runway during UNDERCOVER’s Paris Fashion Week FW18 show as four colourways broke necks and had the whole audience captivated. Jun Takahashi is no stranger to collaborating with Nike, the relationship between the designer and the Swoosh has been long lasting as Takahashi works on the famed Nike Gyakusou line where running apparel, sneakers and accessories are put under the lens of the Japanese creative. Excluding the Gyakusou touch, UNDERCOVER and Nike have previously collaborated on the Court Force Hi in 2015, and most recently the Jungle Dunk in 2017 which featured a Jordan “Royal” colourway inspiration.
This year to debut the React Element 87 it was smart marketing tactics on Nike’s end to debut the sneaker with UNDERCOVER. The React Element features an opaque upper shell with a React foam midsole featuring translucent plugs. The direction of the design has lead to a more futuristic and industrial sneaker with features such as the exterior taping on the heel, a hiking lacing system and waterproofed materials allowing the sneaker to be useful in all situations.
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The colourways highlighted by UNDERCOVER are predominately bold making a heavy statement with the already “out there” design of the overall sneaker, these colourways include Volt/Black/White/University Red and Lakeside/Night Maroon/Black/Electric Yellow, Green Mist/Summit White/Deep Burgundy/Linen and Light Beige Chalk/University Red/Black/Signal Blue.
Matthew Williams x Nike Collection
In May this year Nike announced a collaboration between themselves and Matthew Williams, founder and creative director of 1017 ALYX 9SM (formerly ALYX Studios) where the range was set to introduce a new narrative to modern performance running gear. Mashing influences of data and his own design ethos, Williams took computational design and analysed data around motion, heat and sweat zones to create the “future uniform of training.”
Williams explained that this technique is something that is the future of design, he stated "It helps to create a different perspective that we can build around. Working in tandem — with data and emotion — is super interesting.” Even though this design process is very analytical, Williams mentioned that his own imperfections were added such as raw edge finishes. The range featured t-shirts, tank tops and accessories required for performance such as towels and socks for both men and women.
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2018 has been a busy year for Williams as he is now involved with the design process of Dior Homme’s hardware from belts and buckles through his success and expertise with Alyx’s own line. Referencing industrial and technical garments from military and sporting backgrounds Williams has built a specific niche true to his own and can be seen evidently in his work.
Off-White x Nike Sneakers
In the successful follow up to Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten” in 2017 where he collaborated on ten of Nike’s most iconic silhouettes, the Swoosh seized the opportunity to leverage the Off-White designer’s deconstructed style and motifs onto more sneakers and silhouettes to flood the thirsty market. While the impact of Abloh’s collaborations this year may not have been such a cultural shock and awe like “The Ten” there is no denying that whatever Nike sneaker that touches his name sells out, Abloh himself spoke about “The Ten” by saying, “It’s larger than design culture. These 10 shoes have broken barriers in performance and style. To me, they are on the same level as a sculpture of David or the Mona. You can debate it all you want, but they mean something. And that’s what’s important.”
Continuing on from the theme of deconstruction, plastic zip ties and quotation marks his design ethos in 2018 touched many sneakers from the Air Jordan One, Blazer Mid, Air Max 97 and more. In total there were 15 sneakers which released between Nike and Off-White and some are highlighted above.
Fear Of God x Nike Collection, Air Fear Of God 1, Air Skylon II
With sports and athletic apparel being such a large influence with Fear Of God it only seemed natural that a collaboration with Nike would happen in some shape or form. What stemmed from a three year back and forth process finally turned into a lookbook and film which released in September and allowed us to catch a first glimpse of the Nike Air Fear Of God 1, a new basketball performance silhouette designed by Jerry Lorenzo.
The design process was close to home for Lorenzo who idolised Michael Jordan and has always gravitated towards the brand through his upbringing. Lorenzo wanted to create that same essence and desire he felt growing up with Jordan Brand with his collaboration where kids would be in awe and inspired by the look of a shoe. In an interview with Complex, Lorenzo stated that he flew in his shoe lasts from Italy that he uses for Fear Of God in order to design a completely new Nike shoe rather than taking something already created and choosing colours - this process is very rare when it comes to sneaker collaborations, even the earlier mentioned collaborators and brands didn’t use something totally designed from square one.
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As well as Air Fear Of God 1, Lorenzo was able to collaborate on the Nike Air Skylon II. More along the lines of a retro runner the design was kept very similar to the original model with only a subtle change of different textiles and function. Released both in black and white, with a beige colourway coming in Early January 2019 the collaboration on the Skylon was kept minimal and tonal as the materials center around mesh, nubuck and a patent leather Swoosh. In terms of function Lorenzo opted for a toggle lacing system vs. the more traditional lacing for the vintage runner.
Along with the sneakers, clothing also released to emphasise the lifestyle of an NBA player, loose cut shorts, drop shoulder sweaters and tearaway sweatpants all build a solid foundation of relaxed sportswear with modern details, Lorenzo’s obsessive creative nature allowed there to be no stone unturned. The Nike Air Fear Of God 1 released in December with a retail price of $350 USD and is already fetching a pretty price for resell.
John Elliott x Nike Air Force One
Tapped on the shoulder in recent years from Nike is Los Angeles designer John Elliott. Master of minimal and well made basics from hoodies, t-shirts and denim, John Elliott has quickly become a staple brand within the menswear industry with further expansion into outerwear and a new womenswear line. His recognisable elevated simplicity can be seen throughout all of his ideas and execution which also involves his collaborations with Nike from the new LeBron Icon sneaker, the Nike Vandal and most recently the Air Force One Low.
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Coming from his minimalistic approach and thinking premium John Elliott put his own twist on the iconic Air Force One. In a traditional white colourway Elliott opted for a die-cut midsole bringing more dimension to the sneaker, the upper is made from a pebbled leather harnessing the premium aspect, the removal of all heel branding but going for double tongue branding was an interesting choice. The sneaker released on October 13th only in select retailers and is one of the more under the radar releases of the calendar for Nike.
Tom Sachs x Nike Mars Yard Overshoe
Extending his Mars Yard concept with Nike, artist and creative Tom Sachs created a third “sneaker” titled the Mars Yard Overshoe. Half boot, half sneaker this is meant to protect your feet against whatever mother nature throws at you. Strongly building from the Mars Yard 2.0 in 2017, the exterior of the Overshoe comes in the same mould while the upper is made from various iterations nylon and polyester for total coverage and protection with two white Fidlock magnetic buckles across the shoe to keep the feet snug.
“The Mars Yard Overshoe, its nickname is the March Yard — for March, the worst month of the year. It is wet, your feet are wet the whole month of March,” says Tom Sachs.
In celebration of the London premiere of Sachs’ latest film Paradox Bullets, a limited release of the Nike Mars Yard Overshoe released on October 11th exclusively at Dover Street Market London via an online raffle only.
Union LA x Jordan Brand Air Jordan One
While still considered a Jordan Brand release and not technically a Nike collaboration we had to sneak the Union LA x Jordan Brand Air Jordan One onto the list. Mid November saw the coming together of the iconic Los Angeles based retailer and Jordan Brand, working on the Air Jordan One as their canvas the sneaker features a mix matched colourway exposed stitch details and a pre-aged sole and leather treatment which is reminiscent of the aged 85’ Jordan look which the entire collection embraces. Chris Gibbs, owner of Union LA describes the project below:
“The Jordan stuff I wear now is like if I go to a vintage market and I find some really old stuff that’s kind of patinated or weathered in,” he says. “To me, the vintage nature of it allows you to kind of wear it outside of its intended purpose.” adds Chris Gibbs.
Widely sought after now from sneakerheads alike the Union LA Air Jordan One instantly has become a classic with both colourways selling out instantly and was complemented with a capsule clothing collection which also was widely popular at the time of release.
In a mammoth year of releases, Nike truly worked with some of the greatest creatives, brands and artists in our generation. Some of this years release will stand the test of time, iconic in their own right and will pave the way to new endeavours, while others may slip under the radar only to be referenced in question.
What was your favourite Nike collaboration for 2018? And let us know if you think we missed any that should be on the list.
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Author: Zayyar Win Thein