A wise man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Otherwise known as the Peter Parker principle, this proverb was first popularized by Stan Lee’s Spider-man comic books in the early 1960s. Coincidentally, a mere eighteen months after Spider-Man first graced the pages of Marvel Comics’ Amazing Fantasy #15, a company originally known as Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS) was founded by University of Oregon track athlete, Phil Knight, and his coach, Bill Bowerman, in their home state of Oregon.
Renamed Nike, after the Greek goddess of victory, on May 30th, 1971, the once small athletic company specializing in the distribution of track shoes has since grown into a multinational corporation engaged in the design, development, manufacturing, marketing, and sales of footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories, and services to billions of people around the world. Despite the brand’s overwhelming scale, this symbolic, early connection to Spider-Man’s trademark mantra has never held truer than in the present.
Nike’s proactive and reactive approach towards addressing urgent issues plaguing our planet has made the Oregon-based sporting behemoth a global leader in responsible design and sustainable manufacturing practices. This purpose-driven mentality permeates every product collection and subdivision of the brand’s ever-growing empire, as Nike’s Innovation Team obsessively searches for groundbreaking solutions to reverse the effects of climate change, lessen the brand’s carbon footprint, and combat excessive waste on a global scale.
On the frontlines of such efforts is Nike’s Sustainability Design Lead, Noah Murphy-Reinhertz, whose team endlessly reexamines elements of the brand’s DNA in search of sustainable solutions to key challenges; such as repurposing waste and designing within strict constraints while never sacrificing performance. When discussing what it means to be a Nike designer in the 21st century, Murphy-Reinhertz reveals that, “The most compelling work we do today stems from a deep, meaningful purpose, and the problem-solving that takes place when designing with different limitations in mind.” This innovative approach to design has given life to an entirely new category of Nike products, such as the brand’s latest exploratory footwear collection, Space Hippie, which stems from the brand’s mission to, “Make the most using the least material, least energy, and lowest carbon footprint possible.”
The story of Space Hippie began by looking at life on Mars, a planet where there is no resupply and capital is scarce. This conceptual exercise, in turn, fueled Nike’s Innovation Team to create a footwear collection using only pre-existing materials and resources. In understanding what technical innovations were necessary to achieve this modern approach to resource utilization – a practice common in space exploration – Murphy-Reinhertz and his team developed state-of-the-art solutions to repurpose scraps and recycle post-consumer products.
Using material as a guide for the look, feel, and functionality of the Space Hippie collection, Nike’s innovation team set about in search of new ways to eliminate waste and turn the villain of trash into beautiful, high performance footwear. As such, each of the four initial Space Hippie silhouettes employ likeminded techniques centered around responsible design.
The body of the Space Hippie 02, by example, pairs Nike’s FlyKnit technology with space waste yarn, made from 100% recycled materials, including plastic water bottles, t-shirts, and yarn scraps. Meanwhile, the collection’s ZoomX Foam, used for cushioning, is composed of scrap material from Nike’s VaporFly running shoes, which has been grinded down and bound together through a technique commonly known as bricolage.
The intuitive exploration of material properties drove the collection’s overall look and feel as much as it did its high-performance functionality. The muted, grayscale pallet of each Space Hippie sneaker silhouette is a product of the recycled materials in their most natural form, void of any dye or added pigment. Furthermore, the sneaker’s vibrant swoosh is embroidered within the shoe’s space waste yarn body, as opposed to fastened on top, in an effort to further reduce unnecessary waste.
Described by Nike Chief Design Officer, John Hoke, as an ‘Artifact for the Future,’ the Space Hippie collection is about doing better for today and setting the stage for a stronger tomorrow. In shifting the brand’s product economy through techniques such as upcycling discarded materials, recycling waste, and re-manufacturing post-consumer goods, Nike seeks to become a leader in sustainability on a global scale. This fully circular vision of the future, focusing not only on how a product is designed, made, and used in the present, but how it will ultimately be RE-USED in the future, is the leading challenge motivating Noah Murphy-Reinhertz and Nike’s Innovation Team each day, with the hope they will inspire others to do the same. Because, as a wise man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and when it comes to sustainability in an effort to save our planet, we only win if we ALL win.
Space Hippie 01, 02, 03 and 04 will be available this spring for Nike members in SNKRS and SNEAKERS, as well as at Nike House of Innovation flagship locations and select retailers.