Swoosh? Nike Puts Design in Motion at Milan Design Week

Amid the high-tech installations at "The Nature of Motion," a major group exhibit Nike is opening during Salone del Mobile in Milan this week, featuring collaborations with 10 progressive industrial designers like Martino Gamper and Greg Lynn, Lindsey Adelman is admittedly feeling a bit out of place. “My work looks a little retro, with vintage roots clearly visible,” observed the New York-based lighting designer who prides herself on taking her design cues from nature and organic forms.

But Adelman is not so easily discouraged: she does not feel limited but empowered by simple shapes and structures. “When it comes to illumination, there is really no such thing as a technology gap, “ she said. A designer who does not take herself too seriously—“I try not to go crazy about newness, and edit my ideas heavily,” she said—Adelman created her installation from two pieces, a chandelier and a single light affixed to the ceiling and planted on a heavy brass base. Each fixture quivers at random intervals, creating an evolving dialogue. “I was inspired by weeping willows and the look of Spanish moss on oak trees in the American south,” explained Adelman. “The pieces allude to romantic aspects of nature.”

In the past, Nike has been applauded for its innovative exploration of design during the furniture fair in Milan. This year’s exhibit, at Via Orobia 15, is no exception: Among the big-name talents involved in addition to Adelman are Enrico Cavarzan and Marco Zavagno of Zaven, a multidisciplinary creative studio who came up with an installation of floor lamps with diffusers made with Nike's Flyknit fabric—you may recognize it from sneakers in street-style photographs—and inspired by athletes in action; meanwhile, Sweden-based Clara von Zweigbergk and Shane Schneck are trying to bridge design and technology with stools that can assume a number of different postures; and Britain's Max Lamb has placed heavy aluminum and granite blocks above a thin film of compressed air that allows you to move the pieces around as easily as if they had wheels.

For Adelman, movement is always present and powerful, even if it cannot be seen by the naked eye. "Evolution, change, extinction, new existence," she said. "The undetected motion is perhaps the most important."