Like most people in the arts, my default dress is black, so it is no wonder that my favorite sneaks are all-black Prada and Louis Vuitton pairs. Now there's an even classier alternative: Nike has teamed up with fabric design company Maharam to create a pure abstraction of the sneaker: The Horsehair Collection. These three different black-on-black versions of the basic Nike Air Force 1s (which came out 20 years ago) are covered with hairs clipped from horses' tails (which then grow back). They're like a minimalist dream of footwear. Their density and sensuality take them out of the realm of the smelly sneaker constructed out of some mysterious synthetic material while maintaining the look of the leap that made the Air Force legendary.
CEO Michael Maharam has previously collaborated with designer Hella Jongerius on a Nike shoe, and he says he hopes to continue to put the firms' looms to work on Nike's designs, not only for footwear, but also for clothing. Camel, cashmere, silk, cotton and velvet are all destined to find their way under—or rather over—foot. The idea is to bring sensuality to the sneaker, and dress up the sports shoe for running through airports and swishing through restaurants, rather than basketball courts. Maharam calls it "restrained luxury." At $250 a pair (at selected Nike stores), these shoes are better suited for boardrooms than locker rooms.