Nike has always been at the forefront of innovation in the athletic apparel realm. Their latest endeavor might be the equivalent of handing the baton to Michael Johnson on the anchor leg of a 4 x 200 meter relay in the ’96 Olympics. The Move To Zero and Space Hippie initiatives are far and away the most ambitious and creative undertakings the industry has ever seen. And now Nike has officially brought them to the performance domain with Cosmic Unity.
I had a chance to speak with Ross Klein, Senior Creative Director of Men’s Footwear Performance, about how this vision came to fruition. He said the movement was always intended to finds its way to basketball. The process required a level of collaboration and ingenuity that pushed the Nike team to their creative limits. They needed to find the perfect balance between functionality, style, performance, and sustainability with this particular silhouette. A compromise in any of those key areas was unacceptable.
Ross said trying to marry this groundbreaking technology with the world of performance involved an intense “rinse and repeat” process of edit, revise and fail. But nevertheless, a small bit of progress was birthed with each failure and eventually they crafted the perfect cocktail. They needed to completely distance themselves from the original implementation of Space Hippie in footwear to make this work for a basketball shoe. A higher level of stability and support was needed for athletes who put more force and impact into their footwear.
In order to achieve this, the team had to look around and maximize every inch of their creative space. Ross says they “hacked their machinery” to get the desired results. By making these tools multi-functional, they were able to do some amazing things with embroidery and their crater foam technology, to make a shoe that fit the needs of a hooper. The entire composition had to be changed to increase durability and consistency, which is paramount for basketball players.
With most everything Nike does, there is a message to this campaign. The Move To Zero and Space Hippie platforms were introduced to increase awareness surrounding environmental health and take action to aid in those efforts. They have now tapped into the mass appeal of basketball to amplify that message. Ross, along with the rest of the team, knows that the sport’s tentacles have now reached nearly every country in the world. And they could not have thought of a better vehicle to push this initiative through. Basketball’s omnipresence is not only limited to athletics. It casts an extremely wide net over fashion, music and pretty much every other cultural aspect of humanity. And with Nike having the goals of improving athletes, while simultaneously improving the planet, basketball was the only logical choice.
When I asked Ross about the inspiration behind the shoe’s design, he said he wanted to tap into the creative freedom and advancement of the 90’s. This was probably the most innovative era for sneakers. The goal with Cosmic Unity was to recapture that “wow” factor. Everyone remembers seeing Mike Bibby playing in the Foamposites for the first time. This sneaker will be memorable in that same way. With that mystique, the opportunity to educate will undoubtedly present itself. When you see this shoe, you are going to have questions. And while Ross doesn’t expect everyone to be a spokesperson for carbon footprint reduction and waste management, he knows the story of this sneaker will bring that conversation to the forefront.
A’ja Wilson and Anthony Davis have lended their likeness to this campaign. They both embody the complexity and versatile nature of Move To Zero, Space Hippie and Cosmic Unity. If you have to customize a shoe for players like Wilson and Davis, it has to serve multiple purposes as their games are multi-dimensional. Performance-wise, The shoe needs to be durable for when they’re banging down low. And it needs to be lightweight and comfortable for when they beat their opponent off the dribble. In regards to the sneaker itself, it needs to of course look good to draw you in. But the underlying details need to tell the story of how Nike plans to improve our planet.
The story of Cosmic Unity will not end with this sneaker. There is an entire apparel line that will follow along, with two additional colorways of the original shoe. The “Green Glow” will drop on February 26th. “Amalgam” will be released on March 7th and finally a “Space Hippie” colorway will come on March 12th. Also, an athlete exclusive colorway, honoring Black History Month, will be seen on the court in February. The rollout for this collection is going to be awesome and I can’t wait for it to drop.
While Ross understands that Nike’s reach is extensive to say the least, he is still appreciative of entities such as Made For The W and others who contribute to promotional efforts in spreading the word of new products to consumers. Every platform touches a different demographic and with a message as important as Cosmic Unity, Nike definitely wants this product to reach the masses. We are honored to be a part of increasing visibility for such an inventive product with a message behind it. As Nike continues to break boundaries, we will be here to document it for you. The future is definitely bright for the Cosmic Unity line.