How Nike's Zoom Stefan Janoski Became One of the World's Most Successful Sneaker Collabs

The story behind an all-time classic.

nike janoski

Image via Nike

nike janoski

Stefan Janoski’s first signature Nike model wasn't expected to be on shelves for longer than six months. But since the shoe's initial rollout a decade ago this year, the model is celebrating ten years of unparalleled success as a skate shoe – and is widely considered one of the most iconic skate silhouettes of all time.

Before Nike and Stefan Janoski launched their newly-remastered shoe collection to mark this ten-year partnership, Complex headed to Paris to find out how the partnership has stood the test of time from the people who created the shoe – Stefan Janoski himself, and James Arizumi, Senior Brand Creative Director at Nike SB and ACG. Surprisingly, it quickly became clear that not even the people responsible in charge of the design could have anticipated the evolution of the Janoski OG into its current status as a classic Nike sneaker. 

“Everyone hated it," says Arizumi. "When we had the first sale presented to our VPs, they basically said to us “how are we supposed to go to Mark Parker and Phil Knight and say this is a signature athlete model?”

The shoe was unlike anything any other Nike athlete had brought out before. 2009 was an era dominated by athlete models like Nike Kobes, LeBrons and other high-spec performance shoes, with models featuring air bubbles and overstated design. The Nike Janoski was the absolute antithesis of this.

Stefan Janoski isn't your typical athelte on the Nike portfolio. Clad in a multicoloured cardigan and loose slacks with wear and tear from skating, Janoski is very easy-going in nature – but it's clear that he's a man with a very independent style and mindset. Janoski knew exactly what he wanted from a pro model when he met up with Nike for the initial design meetings, “I’d actually made shoes for a few other companies, but Nike were the people that actually listened and stuck with what I wanted,” says Janoski.  "I thought the model was cool when it came out, but I didn’t think the whole world would think that too!" 


Previously, the only signature model Nike SB had brought out was the much more sports-oriented Paul Rodriguez shoe, which was a much chunkier and heavier silhouette. Janoski wanted the complete opposite of the classic, bulky skate shoe. Determined to not wear “baked potatoes” on his feet anymore, Janoski sought a minimal, everyday shoe that he wanted to “make his feet bleed” while skating – unlike the much more carb-heavy predecessors in the signature skate models. 

The first task for Nike was decongesting the prior idea of a ‘good’, technical skate shoe in order so Janoski “could feel every bump and scrape” while skateboarding. Janoski and Arizumi worked closely together drafting together ideas for the model, but as soon as Janoski saw the design for how his signature model still looks today, he was certain that was what he wanted to ride in, “He showed me a bunch of designs and then he showed me the one we still have today, and I was like ‘yes... thank you!’”

On Janoksi's insistence, Nike reluctantly agreed to strip the shoe right back. Janoski said getting them to agree to his ideas was, originally, quite tough, "Everyone was scared and worried about the design. It didn’t look like a Nike shoe. It was too simple, it wasn’t using enough technology, it was vulcanised…’ Janoski says, "it was frustrating at the time, but after a lot of conference calls and back and forth with me not willing to compromise on my vision, we finally stuck with a design."

Deciding to break away from convention proved to be the right recipe to make the Nike Janoski one of the most successful signature silhouettes they’ve ever produced. The model became adopted by everyone from everyday skaters to office workers due to its versatility and worn by just about every type of subculture around the world over the last decade.


The Remastered model follows the same mantle of the OG. Rather than going for something flashy. It remains stripped back, and with skateboarders wanting cleaner silhouettes than your usual hyped-up sneaker, this shoe is very much “anti-streetwear” in its design, according to Arizumi. 

Arizumi is also adamant that none of this would be possible without Stefan. “His insights and his personality made the shoe what it was.” Not wanting to break something that didn’t next fixing – Nike kept the fit, flick, and ride of its predecessor while giving the collection a slick new look and alternate velcro, mid, and slip-on models. 

This point of view is also shared by skaters using the model, according to Arizumi. “We’ve had other riders come into Nike SB and only wear Janoskis – so it’s a shoe that just works. It skates how it’s supposed to, it protects your feet, and people wearing it is the perfect co-sign for the shoe working. It’s a no-nonsense shoe that you skate straight out the box.” While the Janoski was “never designed to be a corporate dad guy shoe”, the simplicity and design transcended skating – and in so made it one of the world's most successful sneaker collabs.

Skateboarding remains at the forefront of trend-setting in popular culture, and the Stefan Janoski RM is a testament to that. Janoski himself agrees with this, “We never thought we’d be able to talk about this shoe like this as no one thought it would last this long – but it’s great we’re able to fine-tune a classic, rather than completely changing a model which still stands the test of time.” 

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