THIRSTY BANDIT / SHOES 11

Shoulda been an AMD post yesterday, but…

orig. @ Flaunt + more @ GQ of all places.

On Friday morning, Nike teased their new VaporMax collab with Acronym boss Errolson Hugh with a movie poster. The film suggested that singer-songwriter (and avid Acronym head) John Mayer would star in it, but specifics details about when and where the project could be viewed were not relayed. More important to those exclusively concerned about how to get their hands on and feet in the hotly desired sneaks, when would these Air VaporMax MOC 2s x Acronym even arrive?

Answers came later in the day when Nike invited press out to Vintage Cinema’s Los Feliz Theater to watch what was revealed to be a 90-second VaporMax ad. In the old-timey Western clip, a cowboy-dressed Hugh prepared for some gun-slinging against himself—a more-so ninja styled Hugh. All the while, Mayer sat between them, strumming his guitar and provided a pensive mood for battle. When the dust settled and the lights returned in the theater, Errolson, John and Senior Design Director for Nike Sportswear Women’s Apparel Johanna Schneider  stepped out on stage.

Schneider, a former Acronym staffer, mentioned that she enjoyed reconnecting with Hugh for this project and that above all, Nike is in the business of problem solving, which informs what they’ll do designer-wise.

John shared his thoughts on creating new products and the potential buyer’s first wave of thoughts. To him, inital negative feedback is not simply just “hate.” It means “I don’t get it yet.” If things go as hoped, then that thought is followed by “it’s growing on me.” The final stop is “I get it.”

“Have fun on that trip to understanding it,” Mayer told us.  Afterwards, I sat down for a brief one-on-one with Hugh, who tried to explain what that ad was about, talked about what his design goals and more.

Flaunt: Can you explain the concept of that ad?

Errolson Hugh: [Laughs] I’m not sure I can. It’s a minute and 24 seconds. They have those movies that are the whole movie in the trailer. That’s this.

Seems like there’s a competition between you and the other you.

Yeah exactly, which is like a metaphor for life. Self-analysis and improvement. But also it just looks cool. It was just one of those concepts that just had a life of its own. Literally less than four weeks ago, it was just an idea. Everybody who heard it was like, “Yeah, we got to do that.”

Who’s the fan of the Westerns?

What happened with that was, that started a little over a year ago. No, last summer. Last summer I went to Japan, we went Naoshima in the south of Japan, It was so freaking hot and I was not prepared for that at all. I went outside and I was seriously sun-burnt on my head, and then I went back to Tokyo and I was like dying. My girlfriend lived there at the time, and I was like, “Give me a hat I need something, and she had done this shoot for this really horrible lingerie brand and had taken home a cowboy hat, and it was the only hat that she had that fit my head. She’s really tiny and I have like this huge head. And I put it on and I was like, “This is kind of cool.”

It was transformative.

Yeah, exactly. I stole the hat, and started wearing it around. I wore it to a bunch of places where everyone was like, “What are you doing?” and then Johanna saw it and they just kind of took that and said “Let’s just run with it.”

One thing she was saying when she was up there was that the goal at Nike, when they’re designing or coming up with a product, is to answer a question. They’re solution-searching all the time. What is your goal going into a project? Especially with collaborations sometimes, you’re dealing with something that already exists. So are you just trying to put your spin on it. Is it that simple, or are you trying to solve another problem, like you said something about the Air Force 1s you did where you put the zipper on the side and made it easier to get into. What are you trying to solve?

With the first three shoes—the Prestos and the two Air Force Ones that we did—there was a much more literal functional idea behind it. Like the Downtowns, it was the comfort of the shoe combined with the access, and with the Lunar Forces, again the laces with the zipper, Same with the Prestos.

But with this shoe it’s different because we didn’t want to repeat that and because the functional aspect of the shoe was already so good. So the problem to solve there was how do we take it somewhere new that is hasn’t been before, without addressing it and doing it purely in an aesthetic way. We’re always trying to push. That’s just what we do. If someone works with us or does a collaboration with us, at the end of it, it should really be a feeling of, “Okay, we could have never done this with anyone else.” That’s our benchmark.

You said up there that in design, you can either be broad and shallow or narrow and deep.

Yeah, I got that from John. I mean you heard him talk. He’s extremely articulate. So earlier today, we were discussing things and talking about music or design in general. And he had the concept that you either be one of those two things. Narrow and deep, they’re two very related characteristics. You can’t be broad and deep, you can’t be narrow and shallow. It doesn’t really work. And we’re definitely on the narrow and deep end of the scale.

The last question is more about you and your brand: How does it feel to get to this point of arrival, where brands come to you to collaborate, but you don’t have to negotiate about the execution of your ideas because they trust you?

It’s actually more like kind of humorous, because we’re like, “Wow look at that. People are paying attention. What’s going on? Damn how are we getting away with this? This is cool.” We’re still surprised by it. But it’s not a self-evident or something we take for granted at al. At some point, [this attention], it’ll shift again and go away. I think the real advantage of that period where no one was interested, was it allowed us to develop a process outside of an external validation loop. So when we do something, we decide ourselves and we know ourselves without having to ask.

It makes you a lot more secure.

[We ask ourselves,] “Is it good? Is it not good? Do we like it?” And that’s all we really can do. And we stick to that and right now we’re enjoying the fact that other people are into it at the moment.