When Nike created the Flyknit back in 2012, it broke new ground. It was the first time in decades that sneaker shoppers saw a new material. But Nike didn’t create it just to make something new—the brand needed a fabric that was light and dynamic in a way that nothing else had been before. It couldn’t get there by riffing on the classics. It had to do something totally novel.
The material revolutionized footwear, ushering in a new generation: Almost every release of note is now made through some sort of single-piece knit construction. But Flyknit only makes half a shoe; the other half is the sole. And Nike is ready to give its Air Max program a makeover, but you probably missed it.
Rei Kawakubo just sent her latest vision for Comme des Garçons down the runway at Paris Fashion Week in “Invisible Clothes,” and although the clothes were anything but invisible there was an overseen look at Nike’s next blockbuster. The highly anticipated Flyknit Air VaporMax was strapped to five of the models’ feet, overshadowed by the impressive fashion, but speaking in its own strong voice.
Now we know that we’re not going to convince you that the looks Kawakubo showed are for you, or even wearable. (This is the “ready to wear” collection, but let’s be real…) But we are here to show you the dope shit so you don’t have to go searching yourself. And the Air VaporMax is the dope shit. Kawakubo removed the laces from the all-black sneakers, but this is a good taste of the shoe that’s set to release next spring.
Back in March, Nike first announced the new Air VaporMax, the next chapter for the Air Max program. Since the Air Max 1, Nike has incorporated air into the soles of sneakers, creating pockets in parts of the sole, and even extending that air bubble from toe to heel. But with that came a stabilizing midsole or outsole, adding extra weight and limiting agility.
Until the VaporMax. The VaporMax is the first time that the entire sole is just air bubbles. This is the first time that Nike is truly making good on that initial lofty promise—from the floor to your feet you’re walking on nothing but air.
Aesthetically, the sneakers reference where the highest-level design and streetwear meet. They’re reminiscent of Raf Simon’s work with Adidas, tipping into ultra athletics, expanding expectations of what shapes are possible in the wearable footwear space, all while offering a sneaker that’s fully functional.
In terms of design, they’re a real challenge. A challenge to push boundaries and let this look bridge the distance between streetwear and high fashion. If you’re not a fan of the colors, maybe the all-black colorway featured on the Comme des Garçons runway is a good way to split the difference.