Inside the megalithic Nike Store in Oxford Circus, central London, a small area has been cordoned off to showcase the arrival of the world’s most futuristic shoe in Europe. Amidst the blue lights that flash like a space-age nightclub is Tinker Hatfield, Nike’s vice president for innovation and special projects, designer of the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0.
Sneaker obsessed won’t need to be introduced to Hatfield or HyperAdapt. He is one of the most influential men in the shoe business, the technically ambitious cult designer of classic sneakers such as the Air Max 1, Air Trainer 1, Air Safari and Air Jordan III. And the HyperAdapt? This is Nike’s first commercial automatic lacing trainer, inspired by the shoes teenager Marty McFly wears in the film. Back to the future II.
Remember the scene where McFly visits 2015 and puts on a pair of high top shoes that lace up on their own? Hatfield made these shoes for the film in 1989, and now, almost 30 years later, he’s released them. After creating 89 versions called Nike Mag in 2016, sales of which raised $ 6.75 million for Michael J Fox’s Parkinson’s charity, a limited number of more wearable HyperAdapt have been released for sale in the States. -United at the end of last year. Today, a limited number will be available through the Nike app in 19 European countries and at Oxford Street Niketown.
Hatfield joined Nike in 1981 and then worked with director Robert Zemeckis on Back to the future. The American wearing a baseball cap said the filmmakers initially suggested “a magnetic shoe so you could walk along a wall or hold onto the ceiling, and I told them it was an old gag.” .
He did not immediately see the commercial potential of the shoes. âWe didn’t think about trying to make them until 20 years later, because the technology wasn’t there. The shoes work via a concealed motor that is attached to five cables that run down either side of the foot. They are battery operated and need to be recharged every two weeks.
Of course, the mechanism seems out of place when you put them on, an experience akin to a Cinderella sportswear moment – you’ll hit the basketball court! You slip your foot inside the shoes – the battery sole glows with a sci-fi luminescence – and, like magic, the shoes vacuum around your foot. You can press a button to quickly loosen and tighten.
As good as Back to the future, the style of the shoe was also inspired by the robot Eve in the Pixar movie Wall-E. Hatfield adds: âInnovation is a word that gets thrown around. This will always be our guide, but knowing this, we try to add storyline and art to our designs. “
Nike is no doubt hoping that the latest shoe buzz will give the brand a boost and help strengthen its influence as Adidas nibbles on market share. Nike Inc on Wednesday announced its latest quarter results and reported a 4% drop in the share price before closing the day down 1.9%. Sales declined in its most recent quarter to $ 9.07 billion, a minor change from the same period last year and a smaller drop than expected. The sportswear giant is set to overhaul the company; in June, it announced its intention to cut 2 percent of its international workforce. The limited edition shoes cost Â£ 620, so individual sales alone won’t increase Nike’s bottom line, but the mix of innovation, history and emotional connection between consumer and product is part of what informs the identity of the Nike brand.
Hatfield says, âApple is kind of our model; they want to be the first and they do something that no one else does, so they broadcast it and tell a good story. We have different strategies: some shoes are designed to shake up the country club a bit and others are going to be more evolutionary in nature, not revolutionary. Sometimes you have to avoid being too crazy.
Sometimes, however, the public understands, as with the Sock Dart, a stretchable tubular sock on a sole, launched by Hatfield 15 years ago, only to see it ‘catch on fire’ in recent sales.
But how many customers actually need the sports technology of the automatic lace-up shoe? Hatfield says: âOur main customer is the athlete, but we also know that the bulk of our sales come from people looking for comfort and fashion. It’s like the car traveling at 150 mph. Nobody drives that fast, but it’s the coolest cars that go fast.