London Store Takeover
In this ground-breaking footwear range, Abloh took 10 iconic Nike shoes and redesigned and recreated them. The brief for the marketing activation of these designs as part of the exhibition was an original, pared back brand space with the same theme of ‘reconstruction’ that embodied Abloh’s design process. The Ten was one of Nike’s most anticipated new product launches ever and effectively utilised retail and digital channels, being released at the retail event and later to be available online for purchase. The global exhibition aimed to celebrate the creative work of Abloh, as well as inspire young creators in workshops as part of the brand's product launch event.
A renowned designer, Abloh began designing as a teenager, sketching shoe ideas inspired by the Air Jordans of the time and mailing them to Nike. He went on to merge formal training in architecture and engineering with design education drawn from athletic footwear, hip-hop and rock album covers and graffiti. Today, Abloh has found success in many areas including being the founder of brand, OFF-WHITE.
Abloh took original Nike icons and created something new by first deconstructing the 10 original designs and then reconstructing them into new visions, dividing into two themes REVEALING and GHOSTING. The iconic designs were Air Jordan I, Air Max 90, Air Presto, Air VaporMax, Blazer Mid, Zoom Fly SP, Air Force 1 Low, React Hyperdunk 2017, Air Max 97 and Converse Chuck Taylor.
Nike hosted several events globally to launch the footwear, celebrate Abloh’s designs and further inspire young creators. In the UK, Nike aimed to exhibit the designs in an immersive experience in London’s NikeLab store and lead young people to attend creative workshops where they could create their own versions of the Nike Air Force 1’s.
Impact Retail were chosen to bring to life the exhibition experience by the creative leads of the project, Rosie Lee, who provided us with their creative designs for an immersive brand experience and tasked us to make them a reality.
Time was the main challenge to overcome in this retail project, to provide solutions to the brief that would be amazing yet practical and realistic within the time frame. The wow-factor was a key objective that every choice we made had to embody, being such a huge event that aimed to engage and inspire its audience and to contend with other countries who were hosting a launch: Paris, New York, and Tokyo.
Rosie Lee chose us for this incredible project as we are proud to have developed a close partnership with their team through our projects, and they trusted us to support, develop and perfect such a complex and challenging brief in a very short amount of time.
While viewing the event holistically as one brief, we also broke each shoe display down into individual projects, each with their own complexities and challenges to overcome. We built prototypes of each display concept and tested every individual technical element, working with Nike and Rosie Lee every step of the way.
With such an ambitious project, the brief from our partners changed close to every day. In some cases, both before entering the prototype stage and during, we identified that the imagined designs we had been given would not work in the way the brand imagined or alternatively would not be safety-complicit for a public event. In these cases, we were able to suggest and source materials and solutions at pace that mimicked the ideal design closely.
Every material and choice we made needed to be outstanding and original to suit Abloh’s creativity and authenticity and was then required to be approved as part of their formal design process. To make this project successful, carefully considered solutions and excellent communication was integral, ensuring that the process ran smoothly and that we hit our tight deadlines.
The REVEALING theme incorporated five shoe designs with accessibility in mind: hand-cut, open-source and reconstructed. This theme used ideas of viewing how something is made and understanding it.
In the Air VaporMax, Abloh ‘wanted to draw a line from the very first running shoe to the shoe that hadn’t been released yet. To capture the state of the air’, referring to the innovative soles of the shoe. In this display, empty gas canisters strapped together were used with tubes that give the illusion of gas being blown into the soles to visually evoke the airy cushioning of the shoe.
The Air Presto shoe aimed to explore ‘the idea of altering the silhouette’ and the display to present it also linked to the workshops of the event, where attendees would recreate tees. This exhibit presented the shoe atop a taut vintage t-shirt on a stand, in front of screens looping images of workshop participants in their customised tees.
‘Over-designing isn’t needed all the time. In the overall story, it’s all my design tricks’. Playing true to the shoe, this exhibit adds a little nuance but keeps it classic and is inspired by Abloh’s journey from basketball to skateboarding. The display shows the shoe atop several basketball backboards framed with skateboard grind rails to add that industrial edge.
Revealing the foam beneath the surface that reinforces the shoe design and bringing alive the bubbles in the sole of the shoe, this display replicates a bubble effect using an air-filled bubble sandwiched between concrete-effect blocks. The blocks are ‘sliced open’ to reveal the foam and supported by steel that is hidden by ratchet straps to give the effect that the bubble is impressively supporting a heavy weight.
This concept aimed to answer: what’s in the shoe that launched sneaker culture? The shoe had a cultural relevance in its time and offered cultural value in its inspiration, basketballer Michael Jordan. This display used a real basketball hoop and an acrylic backboard with the shape of a basketballer lasered into it. The shoes were suspended to appear that the basketballer was wearing them while making a slam dunk.
The remaining five designs included unreleased Nike concepts, inspiring Abloh to create GHOSTING, an evolution of ‘REVEALING’ using translucent and semi-revealing materials with themes of projection and distortion.
A shoe design originally inspired by the rippling of water, this display presents Abloh’s shoe on a 360 design, placed on an illuminated tube above a shallow pool of water. Playing tribute to the original shoe’s links with UK rave, the water pool resembled a speaker and we were able to achieve water rippling by using the bass of a real speaker as part of the design, safely incorporating electrics and water.
Inspired by the sole of the shoe, we created seamless waves using translucent acrylic and gave the shoe the appearance of ‘floating’ amongst the waves.
This ‘scanning’ concept mixed futuristic and old technology themes. We achieved this with magnets to hold the shoe in place, where we created the illusion of it being ‘scanned’ with illuminations and by setting up a printer to produce an image of the shoe every minute, which attendees could take home as a keepsake.
Displaying Abloh’s reconstruction of the shoe worn by Eliud Kipchoge when he slashed the marathon world record time by more than two and a half minutes, this design showcased the shoe with a translucent breathing hose attaching it to the record-breaking sprint time.
The Air Force 1 exhibit used frosted acrylic to form a translucent box made up of individual cubes. The original shoe designs of the past were ‘ghosted away’ within the acrylic, while Abloh’s design was sat atop.
When it came to setup day of the exhibition, the team had two nights to de-rig the London NikeLab store. We were trusted to begin assembling while the store was trading and so had to be careful and considerate of customers while we worked.
After scaffolding had carefully been put in place we could begin to install the experiences. Installation of technology took place across three separate sites within the store, so required the coordination of the team to be exceptional. The team also got down and dirty to clean the floor as a final perfecting touch.
Nike’s The Ten project was one of the most ambitious and unusual retail design briefs we’ve ever been given to get our teeth into at Impact. Each individual design was bold and unique, testing the creative minds of our team. The time frame was another challenge we successfully overcame, being given two weeks for production and installation. We were able to be true to the original brief while making some alterations to make each exhibit a functional reality, technically and expertly crafted by our team to amaze and inspire attendees.
The London exhibition was the most celebrated The Ten event globally, engaging visitors and inspiring young people to be creative at the Nike workshops, and the shoes sold out in minutes of being launched. We were able to bring Nike and Rosie Lee’s vision to life for an immersive brand experience and they loved our detailed prototyping and that we were so flexible and adaptable to changes they requested, even when we were on site and building the project.
Feedback from Nike was that the exhibition was the most innovative of all global marketing activations and captured the intended experience of the new product design.