May | Calendar News
Nike’s ISPA collection
Focusing on the principles of ‘improvise, scavenge, protect, adapt’, Nike is pushing the boundaries of sustainable design with its latest ISPA collection
Footwear is a medium for cultural commentary at Nike, Darryl Matthews, VP of footwear design explains. A premise that rings true to everyday life; If no one steps out of their house without a pair of shoes, then footwear must say something about the state of the outside world. Two years on from the last ISPA drop, Nike has conceived a fresh take on the cultural climate in two new designs. Another wave of the coronavirus pandemic and two years of political turmoil have inspired The Link, which launches this month, and The Link Axis, expected to arrive in 2023.
ISPA, which stands for Improvise, Scavenge, Protect, Adapt, is more than a catchy acronym. It encapsulates a slow, experimental creative process driven equally by hindsight and speculation. “We scavenge everything, we run through our own archives, we adapt old concepts. Everything is anchored to the question of how can we make a shoe in a way that it hasn’t been made before. How can we make sure the next thing is successive to the last? In that sense the story is almost more important than the product.”
The upcoming collection rehashes a 2003 design, the Presto Clip, Nike’s first modularity concept sneaker. The 20-year conceptual lineage sets an example of longevity.“The idea of this collection is that the creative process never really ends. It’s all about the afterlife”, Matthews explains. Assembled without glues or solvents, The Link and The Link Axis are designed for complete disassembly. “Each component can be taken apart and recycled – so this shoe can be something else at its end life, and it’s up to the consumer to interpret what that might be. We’re engaging with the consumer in a different way and incentivising them to partake in this new way of thinking about the future.”
"Each component can be taken apart and recycled – so this shoe can be something else at its end life, and it’s up to the consumer to interpret what that might be. We’re engaging with the consumer in a different way and incentivising them to partake in this new way of thinking about the future."
Behind the scenes, ISPA has turned the traditional production line on its head; One of the textile developments, Matthews points out, is a 360 circular Flyknit upper – a sock-like component made of various recycled and recyclable textiles, strategically placed for comfort and performance. Without a cementation line, solvent, or cooling tunnels, the Link takes about 8 minutes to assemble. “Only four pairs of hands would touch this shoe from start to finish.”
The result is an aesthetic mashup – think hipster hiker meets Star Wars cyber cool.. Previous ISPA pieces earned the term “esoteric”, a word that seems at odds with the utilitarian spirit of the line. “Esoteric…It’s half true. ISPA is completely removed from any stylistic trend. It’s fully functional. But at the same time, it is fully inclusive. It’s gender neutral. It’s open to interpretation.”
50 years since the sportswear behemoth was founded, Nike sells over 780 million shoes a year globally – that’s more than 1000 shoes a minute. And there’s no doubt that this collection will be as coveted as any other. In recent years, Nike, and the very notion of mass manufacturing, have fallen under scrutiny. Can a company produce in such tremendous volumes while honouring sustainable values? How does ISPA aim to make a lasting impact on customers amidst a business model that moves so fast? Matthews explains how Nike hopes to ensure that the ISPA approach will outrun the collection. “We like the idea of scalability. The scaling of ideas and processes, not necessarily the volume of units sold. It’s more than a commercial endeavour. We want the concept and methodology to stick.”