Nike releases two new models to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Air Max 95
Only four years into his career with Nike, a young Sergio Lozano was enlisted to lead the newest Air Max project. One rainy afternoon, Lozano found inspiration while taking in the Beaverton scenery. “I was looking across the lake out into the trees and I began picturing the process of rain eroding the earth and thought it would be interesting if the perfect product was unearthed by erosion,” Lozano remembers. He drew a quick sketch, featuring striations similar to those found on the walls of the Grand Canyon, and stashed it in his idea drawer.
One question still loomed in the back of Lozano’s mind, “I remembered something Tinker Hatfield used to always bring up while working on other projects, he would say, ‘Okay, so that’s a great design, but what’s your story?’” He found his answer in a few anatomy books housed in the Nike design library. Lozano was attracted to the correlation between the construction of the human body and the essentials of product design. The rest was simple, “all I had to do was pick the links that made the most sense.” With human ribs, vertebrae, muscles, and skin as his chief points of inspiration the first Air Max 95 prototype was created.
The Air Max 95’s greatest strength, its individuality, was also its greatest hurdle. As the design went into the review phase, Lozano and his team quickly realized they weren’t out of the woods yet. The aesthetic was so different it caused some to query its potential. “There were lovers and haters. But you know you’re on to something when you get that kind of emotional reaction,” Lozano explains. At first, the progressive design didn’t include a Swoosh at all. Pairing that choice with two other Nike firsts, visible air in the forefoot and a black outsole, was a recipe for concern. But Lozano and team didn’t abandon the project and eventually won over the opposition.
When asked about the Air Max 95s barely-there swoosh Lozano’s vigor re-surfaced, “We figured Nike was pretty recognizable as a brand and that the design could stand on it’s own. Why did we need it? We already had visible air and we were debuting forefoot visible air on top of that.” There also was a matter of where to put it. The shoes design doesn’t allow it to be placed the traditional spot, across the upper of the shoe, without disrupting its defining characteristics. In the end the Swoosh was placed on the back quarter of the upper, “we applied the Swoosh to act as punctuation,” Lozano states.
With the design finalized, it was time to decide on the launch colorway. Originally, Lozano set out to make the colors as functional as the shoe itself, “in Oregon, people run when it rains, they run on trails, and after the first five miles their shoes look beat and I wanted to disguise that a bit.” His ever-present confidence struck once more when he decided to incorporate gray as one of the prominent colors. “I was told that gray didn’t sell and took that as a challenge. “Black and dark gray were used at the base of the shoe where dirt was most likely to accumulate, and transitioned to lighter shades further up the shoe’s profile. The Air Max 95’s signature shade of neon yellow was chosen as a nod to Nike’s heritage defining racing kit.
Youth culture rallied behind the Air Max 95 and the Air Max franchise blossomed into a style staple. The running category’s gamble paid off and it re-claimed its spot as a footwear powerhouse as well as captured the minds of young designers around the world. Now at the mature age of twenty, Sergio Lozano’s concept still influences contemporary design.
To mark the twentieth anniversary of the Air Max 95, Nike celebrates with the release of two new models: The Air Max 95 Ultra Jacquard and the Women’s Air Max 95 Ultra.
AIR MAX 95 ULTRA JACQUARD
If you ask Nike designer Ben Yun what brought him to Nike the answer will be quick and without thought. Already a footwear designer, the Air Max 95’s design represented freedom of thought and expression. “I learned how to create shoes from a pattern engineer, a very old-school type of shoemaking. The way Sergio broke all the traditional rules amazed and inspired me,” Yun remembers. For this project Yun took the role of the mad scientist, creating a new monster from the Air Max 95’s DNA, focussing on removing weight and increasing flexibility. Deviating from Lozano’s vision on the upper, Yun utilized the age-old Jacquard weaving process on the one-piece upper to deliver the updated anatomy story in a single layer of fabric. Lastly, second generation Nike Flywire was applied as an update to the originals nylon webbing eyestays. “Human fascia is soft tissue. The second-gen Nike Fywire is dynamic and moves with the foot as it secures it inside the shoe. You could say they are the perfect match.” The end result is a strikingly different yet familiar version of the Air Max 95 updated to fit the needs of an active lifestyle.
WOMEN’S NIKE AIR MAX 95 ULTRA
As the creator of the Nike Roshe One, Air Max Thea, and Air Max Ultra tooling, Nike designer Dylan Raasch knows more than a little bit about minimalist design. For the women’s specific Air Max 95 to celebrate the original model’s 20th anniversary, Raasch’s aim was to serve up a lower profile with a sleeker last. That meant drastically changing one of the main characteristics the Air Max 95: forefoot visible air. “It was important that we made it look close to the original, even though we had to remove the forefoot Air-Sole unit,” Raasch says, explaining the painstaking process of keeping his new creation as true to the original as possible. Although the Women’s Air Max 95 Ultra looks similar to its forefather it is definitely cut from a different cloth, updated with innovations conceived to make everyday life a little more enjoyable.
*We'll be stocking both of these sneakers from 16 July.