|Exposition. Nike Considered|
Obviously, a lot of consideration goes into designing any kind of sneaker. Many aspects have to be taken into account in order to design, produce, market, and sell a new product - succesfully. Why then, would Nike call its new range of footwear "Considered"? What did they consider? Or, what new facets did they consider? When Richard Clarke, the designer of the Considered series, and his team made a stop in Paris last fall, we were able to catch up with him, to find out what's behind it all...
In recent years, the term 'innovation' in footwear design meant using the ultimate in materials, whether it'd be fabrics to cover the foot, plastics to stabilize it, or any air/shox/etc. to cushion it. The newer the materials, the more advanced the technology to produce the shoes, the better. Projects like the Woven series however have shown, that innovation could also be found by looking back - back to the history of shoe-making. Fusing century-old styles and production methods with modern elements could indeed produce footwear as modern as any pair of high-tech/space-age model.
With its new Considered project, Nike has gone much further than just taking inspiration from traditional shoe-production, but has re-considered the general process from design to fabrication alltogether. The aspect of innovation is not only to be found in the final shoes. The process of how the concept was developed and then carried out is equally innovative. Especially in the field of athletic footwear.
As mentioned above, athletic footwear has seen many diverse technological leaps over the past decades. Most of these were based on finding and applying new materials to serve a general purpose - improve the athlete's performance, while offering a maximum of support, and not overly confining the foot. The new concept for Nike Considered not only took into account these general tasks but had designers also look into new production methods that would decrease waste, lower energy-consumption, and avoid the use of harmful adhesives. The result of this approach is to be found in all of the Considered models, as well as in its packaging.
It is clearly visible that all Considered shoes are built from only very few different materials, no more than five, to be precise: leather and lacing for the uppers, polyurethane for the sockliner, injected Phylon and recycled rubber for the soles. In addition all materials had to be sourced in closer proximity to the production facilities.
Fewer materials went along with a simpler overall design of each model. To make up for the lack of foams, linings, or thermo-plastic components, designers applied structural seamlines as reinforcements, turned stitchings inside-out to create a smooth inner surface which made extra lining redundant. Leathers and fabrics are dyed with natural colors in traditional processes.
The production process involves far fewer stages than for any conventional shoe due to fewer materials used. A simpler design also lowers the number of production steps as less stitching is needed. As one of the main provisions for the Considered project was to minimize or avoid the use of adhesives, soles were designed to be snapped together rather than being glued together.
There are three main aspects that account for the ecological concept behind Nike Considered.
I) The range is designed to create significantly less waste. The uppers which need to be cut are arranged in a "nested" pattern to cut down the amount of excess material. In general, less materials are being used for each model - minimal lining or reinforcements. Using injecton molding other than cutting soles also lowers the amount of waste produced.
II) Considered involves less prouction-energy as fewer steps are involved in the manufacturing process. The fact that the majority of components are sourced within a 200 mile radius of the factory accounts for less transportation energy, also.
III) The simplicity of the shoes - in regards to how they are assembled - helps to have them be recyled much easier and more efficiently. Fewer materials need to be taken apart and can be sorted more easily. The modularity of the outsoles will also help disassemble the product for recycling.
The Considered Boot, to us, seems like the key-model of this first generation. It clearly carries all aspects that make up for the overall Considered concept - simplicity in design and materials, modularity, but also very fine craftsmanship. The upper, for example, features a large hand-woven panel which is made up of one single sting which also serves as the shoe's lacing. A true masterpiece.
When we met the Considered designer, Richard Clarke, in Paris last fall, he was already wearing a model from the second generation. Simply put, it was a hybrid of a Nike Terminator x Air Force I x Wallabee with a "Nike Free" sole. This shoe, as well as two low-top versions, were on display last week at a big fashion/sportswear trade show in Germany. We can't show you any pictures of these models just yet. But this shoe will have you get excited about sneakers (again?).
Generation I: Spring '05
Generation II: Summer '05
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