The Swoosh is seriously reducing, and in doing so, births a new sub-brand
The way forward for Nike is to reduce. This is not merely to cut down on the wasteful ways of garment production, but to lower the many stages of making clothes by primarily going back to the first, and re-consider how textile can be produced. The innovative new way for them to go from fibre to textile is via a “needle-punch” approach, which, as the brand’s vice-president of innovation and apparel design Carmen Zolman told Forbes, produces “a completely new material that drastically reduces its carbon footprint”. That reduction, as Nike states, is 75% (compared to conventional production of, say, their knit fleece), as less energy is used. Nike calls this textile Forward. And the new line—they consider it a “platform”—is simply named Nike Forward.
But Forward is not Flyknit, likely the Swoosh’s most impactful and influential material for footwear uppers. In fact, it is not a knit at all, nor a woven. Rather, the manufacturing process—the result of more than five years of R&D—involves the creation of the fibres using recycled plastic “flakes” and formed by compressing the ultra-thin layers (five for now) with existing needle-punch machines, already used in the medical and automotive industries. The challenge was to create a fabric that is durable and that has a pleasant hand feel. The result is cloth that looks papery and perforated, that has substantial body.
Close-up of Forward fabric
The new fabric will initially be used for a hoodie and a sweatshirt (just two, and, although gender-neutral looking, they do come in styles for women and men). To further the reduction process, both garments, already minimalist, come sans zippers, aglets, or superfluous trims (but not, of course, the embroidered logo), which Nike says allow the clothes to be easier to recycle. Additionally, the fabric of the tops do not require water for the dyeing (most fabric dyeing notoriously require staggering amounts of water. According to one Euronews report, “to dye 1 tonne of fabric, 200 tonnes of water is required”) or finishing, such as laundering, to render it soft.
The images Nike has released show boxy and roomy tops, attractively shaped (even the hoods sit on the shoulders with sculptural form) to give the garments their contemporary volume, which looks far more cutting-edge than the first two hoodie and puffer that Kanye West launched through Yeezy Gap last year. Interestingly, the product images—shown suspended in the air—are rather evocative of those put out by Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga; only the former, with a faint sepia patina, is a lot brighter. Let’s hope that when they are available in stores, Nike Forward garments would not be stuffed into what could be easily mistaken as ”bins”.
Nike Forward launches globally on 8 September 2022. Check nike.com for details. Photos: Nike