It feels like an vague statement when I waffle on about my search for innovation in fashion.  In the latest issue of Elle Collections, I think I may even have said that we're at a point in time when true innovation and revolution is lacking in fashion.  Blame that hasty statement on late-night email bashing and one too many energy drinks.  The truth is, it's difficult for me to get into specifics when asked what exactly do I mean by innovation in fashion?  It involves an intelligent and an intuitive aesthetic-based application of technology.  It should feel completely new.  Minds need to be blown.  In short, I'll know it when I see it.

Unsurprisingly, this year my own personal award for innovation goes to Nike, who seem to base their entire design philosophy on that i word.  For Nike, it's expected of their design team that innovation and functionality should go together hand in hand.  Perhaps it's to their detriment that they have innovation coming out of their product lines, left, right and centre so much so that, we the consumer take it for granted.  I really think that any person with an ounce of design appreciation skewing towards any style-genres cannot fail to be impressed by Nike's debut of their Flyknit product, whether you're a Nike fan or not.  If you're not a trainer/sneaker-freak or sportswear geek, you might have only seen flashes of Nike neon shoes zooming across telly screens during the Olympics.  It's only if you get right up close and zoom in with your eyes and macro lenses on to the Flyknit shoe that you truly see why I'm writing this jumping-up-and-down-yeah-yeah-yeah post.  

The specifics might read like tech-speak fluff (like beauty ads that confuse you with made-up words) but it's all in the wearing of the shoe where it make sense.  Nike Flyknit is essentially an engineered knit created specifically for running.  It was inspired by the feeling of a snug-fitting sock and so Nike embarked on a four year programme to search for the right yarn and structures to create the upper so that it supports the runner and gives them flexibility and breathability.  In fact a custom-made machine with spools that knits to specification turns out one singular piece that forms the upper of the shoe, which can be likened to an inkjet printer, making 3-D printing something of a real working reality now in apparel.  It's a technology that also cuts waste because of its ability to knit the upper as a one-piece, cutting out excess material.  

Looking at it from a purely design perspective, it's up close where the knit patterns varies at different areas of the shoe that gets me really excited, especially when you see two different colour yarns criss-crossing its way in precision across the upper.  This is the apex of design – where aesthetics, functionality and sustainability comes together as a harmonious trio. 

 The fact that it took Nike four years to create this technology only goes to highlight the lack of time that is missing from our current fashion system's infrastructure and schedule.  It's an unrealistic design utopia alas to think that this amount of time would ever be a feasible reality within say houses like Dior or Chanel nor is it every house's remit to create technological advanced innovative products.  Still, think about where the marriage of say a knit-to-spec machine and the vision of design luminaries could potentially lead us.  It's a mind bogglingly good possibility in my mind.  

My enthusiasm for Nike Flyknit managed to extend to proactively getting involved with their Flyknit Collective project, a worldwide series of workshops to introduce people to the principles of the shoe and to have fun with it at the same time.  In London, the workshops were held at the 1948 concept store over June and July and participants were selected through a design competition, resulting in a group of young peeps aged 16-24 yr olds, coming from all sorts of discplines and backgrounds.  They took part in workshops centering around the Flyknit themes of Sustainability, Lightness, Performance and Formfitting and it was in the last workshop where I got to work with these "kids", helping them realise their vision of a customised football/basketball jersey.  

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The other workshop masters for the Formfitting workshop were Anna Murray and Grace Winteringham of one of my favourite design resources Patternity, Carri Munden of Cassette Playa, Nike apparel designer Jarrett Reynolds whose talk I found infinitely inspiring and menswear up-and-comer Astrid Andersen.

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First they experienced the movements required in their jerseys, playing footie and basketball themselves.  I erm… just watched… 

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Then with the Patternity girls, they had a go at seeing how their surroundings could inspire their designs… 

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Every participant definitely had a clear idea with what they wanted to do with their own specific jerseys and so it was realising their designs that probably was the most challenging part of the workshop given that they only had a day or two to do it.  I was really impressed with the way people coming from a non-fashion background approached the task at hand and the way they thought about the functionality of their jerseys and how a garment ultimately changes your state of mind.  

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I was tasked with helping with the styling and photographing of the resulting jerseys.  Jamie Stoker photographed this "class of 2012" modelling their own jerseys in front of a school photo backdrop.  Whilst the treatment was uniform, the garments were anything but with anything from PVC panels, side-panel bungee cords, mesh sections and vinyl patterns making them and injecting their own personality and design goals within what was an ambitious garment to produce within a week.  Dazed Digital created a series of GIFs for some social-media friendly results of this Formfitting workshop.  

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My own more selfish and less-community based relationship with the Flyknit centres around the fact that essentially, it's a deliciously wearable shoe, available in a ton of colourways and feeds my obsession with wanting to keep my feet firmly on the ground even if I'm wearing an overload of nonsensical layers.  The attitude of "Fuck it, I'm just going to wear trainers" harks back to years of not wanting to be shackled to the prescribed idea of wearing a pretty dress with a convenient pair of pretty shoes.  It helps that I'm currently a multi-tasking fiend, often physically running about town to get things done and that a pair of decent kicks is the only way of faciliating this.  

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(Nike Flyknits worn with Louise Gray jacket, vintage slip dress over Marc Jacobs skirt and Kenzo bucket bag)

If you haven't zooooooooomed in to the shoe, I'll do it for you here.  Look into the knit, look into the knit… 

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My final  bit of reasoning for being obsessed with everything the Flyknit stands for is that I'm *draws breath* about to embark on what will be the toughest physical challenge of my life.  I'm taking part in the half-marathon at Nike's San Francisco Women's Marathon on October 11th.  I have begun training and the process is believe me, fucking arduous.  To throw in the extra twist in the plot, I'll also be training whilst fashion MONTH is going on.  I'm going to be sweating it out on the Highline in New York, in and around Holborn/Somerset House, around the Principe in Milan and along the Seine in Paris, attempting 10k+ runs – all of that before shows begin at around 9/10am everyday.  Pah!  It will be a breeze!  This is all going to go to go according to plan!  I'll be boshing out 20k runs without even so much as a huff and a puff AND get changed into some janked-up layered ensemble for shows.  Just you wait and see…

Comments (27)

  1. Noe Farrell says:

    Wow! What a stylistic flyknit!I never had any idea that something so admirable can come out of that great job! I really love the pics, looks so fantastic and beautiful indeed! Keep up the great job- It’s without doubt a unique fashion!

  2. Tara says:

    These Flyknits are rather extraordinary. With the “sport luxe” trend in no hurry to fade away, Nike have timed this venture perfectly. But I love how it’s more than a pretty colourful, knitted trainer – and I love how much you love them!
    Also, best of luck for the San Francisco Women’s Marathon – don’t worry, you’ll ace it! You don’t become such a fantastic – and highly venerated – blogger without being made of stern stuff!
    Best Wishes,
    Tara

  3. Serdane says:

    I love them. But about innovation in fashion, we have to wait for a while cause for the moment nothing better can happen. But I would live to see some innovation.
    http://www.younglington.wordpress.com

  4. jean cave says:

    I am afraid I am just SO ahead of the pack on this one. I crocheted new uppers and sewed them to insoles in 1959. I remember because I was not allowed to wear them to Girl Guides. There was NO shoe choice whatsoever back then . .

  5. The Provoker says:

    It’s so sick the way they knit the shoe! the flat pattern pic almost looks like a garment or american football upper body gear (I’m sure there’s a more specific name but you see I suck at sports terms). The flyknit project looks fun and just like you, I’m a sucker for when technology blends in with fashion (balenciaga I love you), and the way you worded the thought I had in mind for years about innovation in fashion is genius: I’ll know it when I see it.
    Same kind of applies to when I design, I’d know if I like a collection when I see it, it’s difficult to just keep using adjectives and related imagery and references, just show me and I’d know if it’s good.

  6. It’s great to live now, so many things happen and changes are coming. Nobody can predict anymore anything, researches surprise us every day. It is a new move which not only involves fashion. I think we arrived at a point were all the things which surround us will change. The artists will create new movements, a new music will come and accompany us and our lifestyle will change. Evolution…!!!
    Love your post.
    http://www.liligabbiano.com

  7. Rosie says:

    I wish the sole was more colourful and not white, then they’d be perfect!

  8. ttea says:

    Innovation is hard to really pin down as being brand new because most everything has been done before. I remember a quote from Anna Wintour saying that fashion is always about looking forward, never looking back. I think this is a completely wrong headed approach to take. We can rework and rejuvenate, but innovation starting purely from an idea, with no historical background, is nearly impossible. Similarly, Nike did not create the knit weave, but were able to recreate it in an innovative way. Interesting post.
    http://fashionananthropologicalpointofview.blogspot.ca/

  9. niche says:

    These shoes look great. Do you know when they will hit retail stores? I tried to buy it online but it doesn’t look like its available yet (even though Nike is advertising it).

  10. Anastasios says:

    I’m sooo not in sporty looks and shoes but I respect a cool design and idea. Nice work I must say.
    Although, Nike is all sporty but not cool and fashionable But! probably the best for athletes and sports.
    xoxoxo

  11. vanessa says:

    this is amazing!!!!! nike has really been killing it with reinventing themselves….the reissues, the free runs and now the flyknits! i was reading on hypebeast about how 80% of the shoe is made from recycled materials like old football jersies. so rad. can’t wait to get my hands on a pair of these….hope they are everything nike says they are!
    bisous
    v

  12. Virginie says:

    Both material and backgrounds are fascinating! If the technique is innovative, they look absolutely great as well..
    Virginie/ Style Reload

  13. Paromita Das says:

    Latest fashion on the floor.
    Got to watch a new kinda creativity in the NIKE’s canvas collection.
    Regards
    Urban Purple
    http://urbanpurpleinc.wordpress.com
    http://clothingtechpack.blogspot.com

  14. No way! Those sneakers are made of thread?

  15. Sari Purdy says:

    This sure is fly! I love the shoes. They are an exact definition of style and fashion.

  16. That design was pretty cool and real good and it is quit true that fashion requires creative minds. Fashion is being renovated by the day and l am liking it by the day.

  17. I love sport shoes and this ones l will make a point of purchasing them. They look real cool, l love the innovation in fashion and the creativity involved thumbs up to everybody who worked to see this invention a success.

  18. Lola says:

    I read recently that Nike were definitely the brand that won olympic gold with the flurocent trainers catching everyones attention during the games (even though they weren’t an official sponsor) but after reading about the efforts and years of research that has gone into these, it’s no wonder that the athletes all go to Nike. I want them even more now!! X

  19. Edita says:

    This is very cool. I am still in love with my Nikes which I bought probably 7 years ago. Can’t let ‘em go.
    Love the project and your styling with the sneakers.
    Edita
    http://www.pret-a-reporter.co.uk

  20. .saboskirt. says:

    Nice amazing shoes! All looked great and awesome.
    Much love from the SABO SKIRT girls!
    SHOP: http://www.saboskirt.com
    BLOG: http://www.saboskirt.blogspot.com

  21. Hi to all,i enjoyed the post, you have a nice site.thanks for the information,I’ll be making the necessary changes thanks to your tips.

  22. wow those are some pretty funky shoes , i love the bright colours , they were in many years ago in south Africa , I hope it comes back in again

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