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At Salone del Mobile last week, Nike unveiled an installation by artist Arthur Huang, the Nike Aero-Static Dome inspired by Flyknit – an innovation also found in the newly released Kobe 9 Low HTM limited-edition. We spoke to Kelly Hibler, Vice President of Global Basketball Footwear at Nike, last week about the Huang’s project in Milan, the Kobe 9 HTM, and how he defines design.
WHITEWALL: As a designer of basketball footwear for Nike, can you give us some perspective on how revolutionary the Flyknit technology is and where an artist would find inspiration in it?
KELLY HIBLER: Flyknit is an incredible innovation in the world of footwear. The great thing about Flyknit is it allows us to design down to the pixel level. When you think of what’s needed in footwear, you need to provide the athlete with lightweight support exactly where they need it. The way it works is we can design in through the zones where the athlete needs support. We can design in the extra strength where the athletes needs, eliminating the unnecessary portions of the design making the design really light and strong. As far as inspiration with HTM Flyknits, look at the incredible detail that’s on the upper product. I think of the possibilities of what we can do in the future with this level of fine detail we can engineer in and all the advancements we could make continuing to offer the athlete something perfectly tailored to them eliminating the other distractions.
WW: How is Flyknit used for the Kobe 9 Low HTM edition?
KH: Flyknit was used on the entire upper of the Kobe 9 HTM. We originally released in March the Kobe 9 Elite which was a full high top version. What we did on the low HTM is we delivered a low top. We eliminated the color of the product. The upper patterning is the same, taking cues around the color, but still provides the same kind of support lightweight traction stability and durability as the high top model.
WHITEWALL: Flyknit, Nike Lunarlon, and Flywire are all in this shoe. How do they play off each other and come together?
KH: All three of those are part of a system. When you’re building footwear you approach it holistically. You think of all the ways the player interacts with the footwear and the problems you’re tying to solve. The Flywire makes up most of the upper. We run the laces through it. Athletes will talk about wanting to be locked down on the product. The Flywire is a support element. As the athlete laces up the product and it pulls on the Flywire, and it gives them incredible support and wrap around feel it makes the upper portion feel they are locked into the shoe. It’s a fantastic system for the player looking for a lightweight responsible shoe.
WW: Do you have a personal favorite detail?
KH: I do. We have four colors of the HTM. The black multicolored model has a clear bottom. One of the things I love about Flyknit is how sustainable it is. The production process eliminates almost all waste from the upper. We put the leftover trimmings from the upper on the outsole of the shoe. It’s a reminder of the future possibilities of Flyknit and broader uses of the company. We’ve been able to create a shoe that’s 50% more sustainable than other basketball product.
WW: How do you see HTM editions, a collaboration between Hiroshi Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield, and Mark Parker, influencing future footwear?
KH: The objective with HTM is to highlight the incredible innovation we are bringing as a brand. We use moments in time to highlight those things and to show how incredible innovation can reach across different categories, and celebrate it to the consumer in a unique and inspiring way.
WW: What are your thoughts about the Arthur Huang installation in Milan. As a designer do you feel it captures the essence of Flyknit?
KH: I got to see it in Milan last week and talk to Arthur about the design and see it firsthand. My first impression was “Wow,” because it’s such an impressive installation. The thing I most appreciated is that it’s a much bigger version and representation of the footwear. We used the innovation of Flyknit from the footwear: the strength and lightweight nature of it. Arthur seamlessly integrated that into the installation. Properly placed support with Flywire could support such a huge structure even in a tough environment. It was in a big building and the wind was blowing. Even with all that wind, the knit from the Flywire held it in place. It was a great visual representation of what we did on the Kobe 9 HTM.
WW: How do you define design?
KH: When I think of design I think about solving problems. As a company our job is to solve problems for athletes. A great design will inspire future designs. That’s what keeps us (the Nike brand) growing, is breaking barriers. Each time we break a barrier it opens up doors for other designers to create future designs.