This Isn’t Athleisure: Nike Taps Five Young Designers to Create Garments Inspired by VaporMax

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Nike is pulling out all the stops for the 30th anniversary of its Air Max 1, which falls on March 26, or “Air Max Day,” as they’re calling it. On Wednesday, the Instagram star and artist Ava Nirui released nine custom sneakers with accompanying fake ads. Plus, there’s a competition online to vote for the next Air Max design. Nike’s real pièce de résistance, however, is the release of the VaporMax—a groundbreaking piece of high-tech footwear that took over seven years to engineer. Its upper is made of a single piece of malleable and breathable fly-knit, which is seamlessly bound to a sole that’s essentially comprised of the world’s tiniest and most durable airbags. Naturally, the VaporMax is inspiration for any designer, and Nike asked five young talents from around the world to create garments for each iteration of the shoe. (They’re calling them “Vision-Airs,” get it?) Many of them are Central Saint Martins students as well as interns at houses like Céline, Gucci, and Maison Margiela. So, you can be sure this isn’t your average athleisure. Meet them all, here.

Paula Canovas, Spain
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University: Central Saint Martins; Previous experience: Ashish, Gucci, Maison Martin Margiela; Awards: Stella McCartney scholarship

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“I wanted to capture how the shape changes with movement and how it adapts to both the body and to air.”

Azar Rajabi-Asl, Canada
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University: Domus Academy, Milan; Previous experience: Damir Doma, Hogan, Casamadre, and Prabal Gurung; Awards: Finalist at Milano Moda 2016

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“The idea of air in harmony with the body, and the connection between the human body and space; tying those two together with lace was a design detail I felt was important.”

Liam Rhys Johnson, South Wales
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University: Central Saint Martins; Previous experience: Maison Martin Margiela; Awards: Alexander McQueen scholarship and L’Wren Scott scholarship

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“I liked the idea of the piece feeling like a vortex or a dense, black cloud swirling around the body.”

Shizhe He, China
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University: Central Academy of Fine Arts, Bunka Fashion School, Parsons

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Wanbing Huang, London
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University: Central Saint Martins; Previous experience: Céline and Issey Miyake; Awards: Raw Talent 2015 Award finalist

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“The transparent air cushioning unit that acts as a standalone outsole inspired me to create a flawless outfit that creates a harmony between body and environment.”