Teasers have been floating around for a minute, but here in its entirety is one of the most impressive collaborations of the last few years. By impressive I mean, these two brands are powerhouses in their respective lanes. It goes without saying—Levi's is denim, just like Nike is sneakers.
If you know anything about how collaborations work, the first question is always "why?" What does brand X bring to the table that brand Y doesn't already offer. In many cases, it's just about doing something cool that will be extra salable. Or about one brand borrowing cultural cache in exchange for another brand's fat budget, or production means. Fast fashion retailers like H&M and Uniqlo collaborate with high-end designers because they can offer mass production and low cost. The High-end designers like Jil Sander or Versace use retailers like H&M and Uniqlo to increase their visibility (or as a good-hearted gesture to fashion nerds struggling through tough economic times).
How good can something be when two established brands bring their best ideas to the table?
In this case, you have two brands that are so big and diversified, they don't really need to collaborate with anyone. Nike makes jeans. They already make a whole line of apparel for skateboarding. Levi's developed a line of jeans for bike commuting, so why not borrow technology and construction from that collection, make some design tweaks, and create a skate collection? Well, that doesn't take into account that massiveness that is the Nike Swoosh on the leather Levi's tag. The pairing here isn't just about what one brand can offer another in exchange for a double label project—it's about how good can something be when two established brands bring their best ideas to the table.
The Made in the USA Team 511 Skateboarding Jean ($198) is the hallmark product here—developed with the help of the legendary Cone Mills denim mill. Levi's 511 Skinny jeans were already popular enough with skateboarders—it's got a skinny fit that isn't too constrictive, and a general shape that is in-line with what "the kids are wearing." Nike couldn't fuck with that. But they could offer a whole boatload of inconspicuous technology to be discretely woven into the fabric. Nike's Dri-Fit, for one, which keeps the denim from turning into a soggy mess after an hour or two of skating. And a Vectran weave, which is new tech for Nike (something you should expect to see more of in the future), but it basically means that the denim is nearly indestructible. So what you have is a pair of jeans that fit exactly the way you'd want them to, they've got the Levi's tags on there for the loyalists, and they've got magical space technology from Nike scientists that will actually make you skate better (maybe, probably not, but you'll definitely feel better/look cooler).
There's more to the collection—a slightly less technical, less expensive 511 Skateboarding Jean ($98), a Denim Trucker Jacket ($100), and two pairs of Nike SB sneakers—the Omar Salazar LR shoes ($85), and a Dunk Low Pro SB ($98). The first pieces will roll out on July 4th, and the rest of the drop will be available August 1, a skatehops and levis.com/nike.