Nike SNEAKEASY for Air Max Day 2017
And just like that, Air Max Month has arrived. And given that today is Thursday, I'm going to take the opportunity to throw it back to something very special to me, which I didn't really give a permanent home after it all happened. I know I didn't really dive into what it actually was last year but you probably saw snippets of that bright red (infrared, to be exact) upside-down room. That was mine.
This time last year, I was knee deep in ideas for what ended up being one of my favourite projects to date: the Nike SNEAKEASY for Air Max Day 2017. Nike wanted to do it big in Toronto this time. Each major city (NYC, LA, Chicago) threw their own version of an Air Max Day celebration, and Toronto's was a full on SNEAKEASY.
It was top secret and the only way in was with an invitation.
Nike selected me to be one of Toronto's six Masters of Air and design an installation within the space to pay homage to one of the most important innovations of the brand: visible air.
In four short weeks of secrets (so many secrets) and sleepless nights, SNEAKEASY came to life.
It felt pretty great to have shared this space with 5 other incredibly talented creatives. Director X has directed music videos for Drake, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Usher, Rihanna, Justin Bieber and more. He was responsible for the overall concept of the space. Tanisha Scott is a performance director/movement coach/choreographer whose latest work was seen in Rihanna's Grammys performance of "Wild Thoughts" - fire, right? Her installation was inspired by the AM97 and included an unreal live performance with a team of dancers decked out in silver track suits. Bryan Espiritu is basically the mayor of Toronto and the founder of The Legends League brand. He designed a politically charged space for the AM1 that represented how the AM1 broke down walls and also alluded to what else was happening in Toronto in that time. Avi Gold is most known for his bootleg tees and his brand, Better Gift Shop, which can be found at Dover Street Market. He designed a mom and pop shop that reflected the AM95, his favourite shoe. Dani Reynolds, Art Director at Kastor & Pollux, capped off the night with the space unveiling the brands new VaporMax - a room of mirrors and clouds and lights and crystals.
I won't lie, I did encounter a lot of self-doubt and fear while working on this. It felt like a rollercoaster of emotions as I sat at these meetings with people who I really respected. I had never really considered myself an artist in a tactical sense. I had to constantly remind myself that Nike asked me for a reason, and that I deserved to be there. I had never put out so much of myself before and this challenged me and gave me an opportunity to do that. I remembered what my art was: storytelling. I wanted to tell the story of the Air Max 90 and its impact on the culture.
I can't thank everybody enough, who was a part of this project. So many talented and hardworking humans, all of whom taught me to be both confident and humble. It was here that I decided I'd never complain about being tired again, because I was living out a dream and working amongst people who were working much harder and longer than I was to bring it to life.
My task was to celebrate the Air Max 90, so without hesitation and any willingness to compromise, I needed it to be the Infrared. Given that I grew up in the 90s, it was the perfect fit. The 90 paved the way to a more bold and creative approach, introducing Infrared for the first time, having only done primary colours in the past (the Air Max 1 started with red and blue), as well as introducing more unconventional material pairings in its design. It became a perfect blank canvas for many artists, and inspired perhaps the most memorable artist collaborations and colourways of our time. There are so many interesting colourways, which can cater to anyone. The Air Max 90 is a little bit all over the place and a little mismatched, but it always finds its way and makes sense to itself - similar to how I see who I am.
Thus, the idea was born: an Infrared upside down room.
“THE AIR MAX 90 PUSHED THE BOUNDARIES OF TECHNOLOGY.
ITS STYLE PUSHED THE BOUNDARIES OF CREATIVITY.
IT WAS NOT AFRAID TO BE DIFFERENT.
IT WAS NOT AFRAID TO BE PLAYFUL.
IT WAS NOT AFRAID TO BREAK THE RULES.
THE AIR MAX 90 TURNED RUNNING UPSIDE DOWN.”
The biggest part of my concept was the ceiling, which sadly I didn't have photographed but the artwork is below. Building a ceiling was really challenging given that we were not allowed to install anything permanent in the historic loft space we were using, but the Nike team made magic happen. I used the ceiling as my canvas, and designed a ceiling mural to pay tribute to 10 iconic AM90 colourways while also speaking to Toronto (surprise, I'm a trained graphic designer but I never talk about it lol). The design was based on a running track - the part where the oval curves and it transitions from the first 100m to the next - to symbolize the next leg of the race, the next runner. The AM90 was next.
The rest of it is what you probably saw in photos. We installed bleachers on the ceiling, upside down framed prints of the sneakers I alluded to in my artwork, and track lights on the floor to represent the stadium lights and also illuminate the room. We also had a heel grip designed for the wall (found on the back of the sneaker where your achilles is) and a custom AM90 neon light that I regret giving away.
The whole space was a trip. I made it a point to personally teach people how to take photos in there to get the right shot for the gram. So much love to everybody who came and shared photos.
While you're here, go ahead and check out my feature on Hypebae that followed this installation.
Looking forward to seeing what Nike comes up with for this year's Air Max Day!