Nike's Global Design Director, Jesse Leyva, spoke to Complex about the new AM90 hybrid sneakers and how his team is making the Air Max 90'one of the best shoes of its kind'new again. Read the exclusive interview below...
Interview by Bradley Carbone
Complex: The Air Max 90 MoirÃƒÂ© is a big shoe for spring, following the recent trend of hybrid-izing shoes. How does it fit into the spring Nike Sportswear line?
Jesse Leyva: Well, remixing existing concepts with new technologies to make a sneaker perform better has always been central to Nike. If you look at the original Cortez, that was a flip-flop sole combined with a track-spike upper, so hybriding designs has always informed and inspired the next step for us. For Spring, we're moving along similar lines, using Nike sport innovations to inspire the lifestyle product, and make it perform better.
Complex: Right, but the new shoes are more overt hybrid creations, as opposed to just having design influences. Can you talk about how shoes like the AM90 Flywire, the Air Max 90 MoirÃƒÂ©, and some of the other sneakers we've seen pop up on blogs have come to be?
Jesse Leyva: The Nike campus has always been teaming with runners wearing shrouds over their shoes, testing out new innovation concepts. What they're doing'and other groups like Basketball do it as well'is testing out new platforms. They'll throw a random existing upper onto the new platform so they can wear-test the technology, maybe attaching the upper of a Flight '89 to the newest Shox. As a result, there are these really cool "hybrids" in the design basement, kind of the concept cars that influence developments not just in running but across multiple categories.
Jesse Leyva: In a way. Nike gets to a lot of new places by creating "hybrids" or whatever you want to call them, but these designs rarely see the light of day. Bringing these shoes to market under Nike Sportswear is like taking a concept car and refining it for retail. These hybrids bring forth a concept that we call Elastic Design.
Complex: What's that? What's Elastic Design?
Jesse Leyva: Elastic Design is the idea of refining the performance integrity of the original shoes, and weaving a design thread through a collection. If you look back to the 1990 original Air Max, Tinker [Hatfield] wanted to make a cushioning and lightweight shoe. We take his original problem (how do we make a lightweight cushioning shoe) and revisit it using all of the resources and sport technologies available to us today. What we get, by creating these "hybrids," is a bunch of shoes that address the original problem'by being extremely comfortable and light'but also look pretty cool.
Jesse Leyva: People often gravitate to sneakers over dress shoes because they are light and comfortable. The AM90 Flywire fuses technology developed for Nike's Zoom Victory track spike into the design. Flywire is paper-thin, yet extremely supportive through high-strength thread overlays, so it makes a casual shoe very comfortable and supportive. You might not choose to run a marathon in the Flywire Max 90, but you could. The Flywire technology allows us to cut down on seams, so the sneaker is more comfortable when you walk around town.
Complex: And what about the 90 MoirÃƒÂ©?
Jesse Leyva: The MoirÃƒÂ© was originally created by Mark Smith (the Upper) and Jay Evar (the sole) for the Nike + platform. It was designed to be lightweight, a one-piece upper that was also breathable. What we did with the 90 is again we looked at what Tinker was trying to do: create a lightweight cushioning shoe with stability. The Moire is another lightweight initiative, like Flywire. The Flywire is a little more tech-y, and the MoirÃƒÂ© is a bit more subtle, but both are great shoes. The whole idea with these hybrids is to make the shoes better. It's not just a looks thing. Looks are a part of it, of course, as it's a lifestyle line, but we are making the shoes performance-driven. For the 90 collection, the shoes are modern extrapolations of what Tinker was originally trying to do. Same with the new Flywire Cortez. We look at the shoe, and then we think about how to take the original elements and make them better.