Update: June 9, 2020 at 7:45 p.m. ET
Nike announced it has delayed the launch of its highly-anticipated Space Hippie line of sustainable footwear.
The sportswear giant will now release the Space Hippie sneakers — dubbed 01, 02, 03 and 04 — on July 3. The line will release on the SNKRS and SNEAKERS apps as well as at select Nike doors and retail partners.
For people interested in setting up a notification to purchase the sneakers, Nike has updated the release calendar on the apps.
What We Originally Reported on May 28, 2020
Arguably Nike’s most forward-thinking footwear collection, the result of sustainability-driven thought and design, is almost here.
Space Hippie, which Nike described as an exploratory footwear collection made with “space junk,” will be available in retail next month.
“A couple of years back we started to get a lot of new information about specific carbon footprint of materials and processes. That led to saying, ‘OK, here’s the best we’ve ever done, we’ve got to be able to do something even better than that,'” Nike Innovation sustainability design lead Noah Murphy-Reinhertz explained to FN. “The only thing that got us there without waiting for new technology was to use material that was headed for a landfill, reusing waste as a path to really low carbon emissions.”
The looks, which feature both laceless and traditionally-laced designs, are made using factory and post-consumer waste and constructed using sustainable practices and radical design. The uppers feature Space Hippie Flyknit yarns that are made with at least 85% rPoly, which is comprised of recycled plastic water bottles, T-shirt and yarn scraps. Also, the line uses Crater Foam tooling with 15% Nike Grind rubber and 100% recycled ZoomX foam scraps.
The introductory four-shoe line — which are named with the numbers 01, 02, 03 and 04 — that will hit the SNKRS and SNEAKERS apps, as well as select Nike doors and retailer partners on June 11. The sneakers will retail for $130, $150, $180 and $130, respectively.
Ahead of the launch, Murphy-Reinhertz outlined the Space Hippie origins and explains why this start maybe good but the best is yet to come.
Footwear News: What are the origins of the Space Hippie name?
Noah Murphy-Reinhertz: “[The aforementioned] bucket of materials, when I collected those all together, looked very unusual, so we brought together a bunch of designers with Eric Avar and a few other folks from from the Space Kitchen and we dumped them on the table and without realizing it, it was very much like those like Apollo 11 type challenge thing, like you’ve got to design with the things that are right here. We were putting everything together, it was a really scrappy improvisational sort of process, and as we were taping a couple parts together one of the designers said, ‘This is like you’re stranded in space and you have to fix your shoes, what does that look like?’ That made us think of that moment in ‘The Martian’ where he is farming potatoes in this ruined space station, he’s having to live off the land in that moment but he’s doing it with these really high tech tools. There was this really interesting tension there, being where you are and dealing with the things that you had but where you are is this incredibly high-tech, high-performance environment. So we poked around with it and that gave us that Space Hippie naming to start. And as we poked around in that, we realized that it’s the way that space agencies are thinking about space exploration. [From there we had] the idea that if we’re going to stay on the moon for a while or we’re going to go to Mars and stay there, you’re not going to fly concrete up there and build a habitat. You’re going to have to work with the locally available materials and transform them. Let’s use the things that are already viewed as waste but let’s transform those into something new.”
How many iterations did you produce before coming up with the styles heading for retail? And how long did this take to come to fruition?
NMR: “I think the whole journey was a little over two years, something like that. We made it just a mountain of prototypes. In keeping with that theme of the high tech improvisation, one of the really fun things that you get to do in the innovation kitchen is to take machines that are meant for production and try to make them do new things.You usually have to do that by trying yourself, so we’ve got a mountain of prototypes that we’re just us experimenting with processes and seeing what are these materials doing when we heat them, mold them, embroider on them — all these different things. [We were] taking things that were meant for decoration and using them to reinforce areas, things like that. Those were the kinds of experiments with the machines [where] you start to measure them and you understand like, ‘Oh, this is a sustainable technique but we’ve never highlighted it as that.’ When you actually measure the amount of material that it uses, you still actually this is part of a sustainable toolkit.”
What makes the materials used to execute the footwear so special?
NMR: “If we start with the yarn, what was really important here was it’s really tough to do anything better than what we had already. Flyknit is a really low waste process. And almost all of the yarn that Nike uses now for Flyknit is recycled plastic bottles, so that bar is incredibly high already. What we had to do was to look for ways to reduce energy in the make in making a new yarn. When we took the the old discarded T-shirts, textile scraps from the factory and some plastic bottles, instead of melting those things and re-extruding them, we just shredded them and twisted them together. In a way, it’s almost a very ancient way of making yarn, you’re just spinning fibers together, but without that extra heat you reduce the energy a significant amount — it’s about 70% less carbon emissions for that yarn than even typical recycled polyester because you take the heat out of the process. And the ZoomX foam that we use on the inside of the shoe, we use it in the sock liner and we use it in the core of the midsole, that’s 100% recycled material but the challenge there was figuring out how we could get it all to stick together. That’s where we wound up with almost like the layer cake or the jelly donut sort of thing that we did here. We’ve got the crater foam on the outside that really protects it and holds everything together and then we were able to pack the shreds of that ZoomX into the midsole there.”
Now that the lowest carbon footprint score for Nike footwear bar has been set, how do you do better?
NMR: “There’s this move to zero goal for all of Nike and basically what that articulates is like it’s just putting out a really ambitious target. But the fact is we don’t know what the future looks like at the point where we’ve gotten to zero carbon impact, zero waste — that’s a future that doesn’t yet exist. So on the one hand, we know already we’ve got to do better than this. If we made a shoe that’s 3.7 kg of carbon, that’s still 3.7 more than zero so we’ve got a ways to go. I think we’ve really got to do two things. We have to continue to invent the new things that will allow us to get even further, pulling back down or even make the world better with each year. And then I think the other thing that we have got to do is continue to do the kinds of partnerships that Nike does that are about things like renewable energy or improving factories because that affects not just our shoes but anybody else who is building something at those factories. And when we do that, that pushes all of sustainability forward.”
Do you have a favorite of all the Space Hippie sneakers?
NMR: “I have been wearing the 02 a ton because it’s like the comfy indoor potato shoe. [And] the 01 I really like, I really love that too, I hope I can wear that out in the world again very soon. But I’m wearing the 02 all the time right now.”