NIKECRAFT, TOM SACHS AND NIKE’S STORY

In 2009, Nike gathered a group of renowned artists like Dzine, Obey, KAWS, Eric White or Tom Sachs with the intention of organising a charity exhibition. Mark Baker, Nike’s CEO and a lover of art in all of its expressions, was in charge of it.

Between greetings and celebrations, Mark Parker discovered that his relationship with Tom Sachs was unidirectional. Parker enjoyed Sachs’ obsession with the Apollo expeditions, which he interpreted as a mixture of carefree humour and social critique. However, Sachs would answer him saying that he had never managed for Nike sneakers to adapt to the necessities of his team, as according to Sachs’ way of seeing things, these were the same needs that any other astronaut would have. That chat led to a proposal on behalf of Mark Parker: “do you think you could make better sneakers?

It wasn’t about decorating a sneaker, it was about putting Tom Sachs in charge of a team of designers and researchers who would work thinking about the performance and the aesthetic of the space programmes. A collaboration should work as more than just the sum of two names, which is why Tom Sachs tried to take advantage of all of Nike’s technical expertise to create the uniforms of his astronauts. 
Usually, Sachs would lock himself in the studio during the creation process, it was now being carried out not only in the design offices but also in the factories that were hundreds of miles away. An advantage in Tom Sachs’ work method is that making mistakes is celebrated as a new proposal.

That first sneaker and the NIKECraft collection became the utilitarian account of the Space Program : Mars, proof of his obsession with the American space programme in which the particular trip to Mars was recreated. Those first Nike Mars Yard were made by Vectran and other materials coming from the investigations of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There’s no functional reason to use one colour over another, which is why the colours of the original materials were kept intact. Even though they worked as a sculpture, they should actually be the working sneaker for the team of astronauts and developers of the experience. Even though it is less remembered, the collection also included The Trench, The Marsfly Jacket and The Lightweight Tote, garments that completed the NIKECraft series.

Tom Sachs tried to stay away from the collector’s item that is the Nike Mars Yard by suggesting its use as a tool and that’s how the second version was created, on the occasion of the Space Camp, a kind of summer camp adapted to Sachs’ spatial ideas. New materials for a style that kept the references to one of the sneakers designed by Mark Parker, the Nike Escape and the Special Field Boot, multi-purpose boots that were created for Nike’s tactical line.

Nike x Tom Sachs’ latest interaction comes with their new project, Paradox Bullets, a 23-minute video starred by the artist Ed Ruscha and narrated by Werner Herzog. The Mars Yard Overshoe is an extension of the process developed for NIKECraft adapting itself to the weather acclimatisation with its usual mixture of raw materials with the manufacturing touch of the artist. The external part of the sneaker can be unfolded to protect itself from other elements or rolled up to adjust itself to interior conditions, using Dyneema, a resistant fibre used in ropes, and an outer sole was redesigned for a better grip in cities.

What started as a proposal on Nike’s behalf for Tom Sachs to design a model for them, has turned into NIKECraft, a new structure without any dates or closed deadlines in which Tom Sachs himself and his team take the place that is usually occupied by elite athletes.