Jon S. Maloy, Creative Director at global experiential communication group Auditoire (OMNICOM), tells the story of how the swoosh finessed its way into a party it wasn’t invited to and got the whole world to dance to its playlist.
You’re probably thinking right now, a brand that drops a capsule collection with Dior is bound to get a little boost in aura, but surely one hit isn’t nearly enough to establish any sort of credibility.
I agree with that, and so does [online culture marketplace] StockX. If you were to try and hunt down the world’s most sought-after sneakers, you would have to browse through 36 pairs before you’d find the next brand in line – in fact, it would have to be the next collab in line… Adidas X Chanel.
That’s 35 + 1 reasons we get to ask ourselves if Nike can credibly compete for the title of first 21st-century luxury brand.
For millions of people, luxury is the ultimate proposition; one that transcends any one item – even a Dior X Jordan 1. “It dictates our dreams, sculpts our bodies, whitens our teeth, and redraws the maps of our cities,” as Nicolas Chemla, author of French essay “Luxifer, why luxury possesses us,” says. A little like a symphony, sharing a compelling luxury story needs to be all-encompassing: vision, creativity, myths, and theatrics. Only then can the magic operate. Nike gets that.
Why settle for one creative director?
If you’re going to change the world order, you need a vision. Why have one creative director when you can have an entire generation of them? Nike has a line-up that would make LVMH feel a little envious. Collaborating with the likes of Riccardo Tisci, Virgil Abloh, or Matthew M. Williams might seem self-evident today; not so much ten years ago. Their vision for the brand didn’t only elevate it, it forced the entire luxe category to follow suit and try and compete in a space that was foreign to them: sportswear – a space where Nike has reigned unchallenged for decades.
R&D as Nike’s answer to Haute Couture
If it’s not couture, is it even luxury? R&D is the brand’s answer to Haute Couture. Chanel has its ateliers; Nike has ISPA. Improvise, Scavenge, Protect, and Adapt (ISPA) is the ethos under which this department is given complete creative freedom to discover what’s next. More than a show of force and creativity, real products have started rolling out and are already finding their way on the feet of world-class athletes, helping Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge finish a marathon in under two hours.
The luxury industry follows into Nike’s footsteps (again), quite literally
You can’t tell a story if you don’t have legends to write about. Here is where Nike anchors its narrative in modern-day mythology. An industry that’s always been reluctant to give its brands faces other than the it-models of the day – some of us still remember the J.Lo and Louis Vuitton’s short-lived marriage – are now all following into the American brand’s footsteps (again) quite literally. Check out what Lebron is rocking in Rimowa’s latest ad. The dream factor that comes with these athletes cannot be underestimated. It’s a special kind of myth, one that has yet to be written and that the rest of us wait to see unfold before our eyes.
A new kind of playground where, for just a minute, everything seems possible
It wouldn’t be a symphony if we didn’t have a stage for it to all come together.
Nike’s new flagship stores have more in common with the MoMA than with your neighborhood sports outlet. If you walked into one right now, you would be hard-pressed to find a cash register and that’s all right, because these stores were never intended for that. They were imagined to be a space where millions could congregate and immerse themselves into a playground where, for just a minute, everything seems possible.
Nike’s definition of luxury isn’t my mother’s and that’s ok. It’s a new, fresher, and more inclusive take on it. Freed from fashion seasons, Nike doesn’t have to tell one story, it can tell tens of them, allowing itself to not just be in sync with the culture but part of it.
So, will the swoosh ever embrace this label of first 21st-century luxury brand that we just bestowed upon them? Probably not, but then again, why would they? That just might be the most luxury-like move they’ve pulled on us yet.
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