20 years ago, Nike introduced a silver shoe inspired by the industrial finish on mountain bikes — the Air Max 97. It offered 360-degree reflectivity, made most apparent in low light or via a camera flash. A gold colorway came two years later, cementing metallic shine as central to the silhouette’s legacy.
Combined with the introduction of a new hidden lacing system and full-window cushioning, the Air Max 97 was an early representation of Nike sport-style innovation. To explore its future potential for Spring and Fall 2017, NikeWomen designers looked to a material pioneer, Swarovski, and their Crystal Fabric, to creatively embellish and add durability to the Air Max 97. Containing tiny, densely clustered cut and uncut crystals, the fabric offers a gleaming yet gritty appearance, perfect for a new expression of the original’s signature shine.
During a trip to the Swarovski headquarters in Wattens, Austria, NikeWomen Color and Material teams received rare access to company archives and learned about the 12 years of research that went into the production and innovative applications (which include jewelry, apparel, fabric, home décor, car interiors and watches) of Swarovski’s pioneering, sustainable Advanced Crystal formula. In particular, the NikeWomen team gravitated toward the Crystal Fabric.
“This was such an exciting project in terms of material innovation,” says Marie Crow, Nike Material Design Director for NikeWomen Sportswear. “We were looking to explore shine and durability in a new and innovative way, and we loved the juxtaposition of the Crystal Fabric’s tough sparkle to reinvent an already iconic shoe.”
The fabric was then applied through a heat fusing process, without any stitching, that uses precise pattern pieces — varying for each shoe size — to curve around the waves of the 97, including the expanse of the one-piece rand. As the shoe moves, the crystals refract light with a bright, shimmering effect. Released in black for Spring, and now in silver for Fall, the Air Max 97 LX with Swarovski crystals marks the first time NikeWomen has used Swarovski crystals on a shoe, as well as the first time Nike has fused precious material onto the Air Max 97.
"Swarovski has a proud heritage of innovation and creative collaboration,” says Markus Langes-Swarovski, Swarovski Executive Board member. “We were delighted to partner with Nike to create this unique design. The Air Max 97 is a truly iconic 360-degree silhouette that has inspired us to imagine what might happen when speed meets light."
The silver Air Max 97 LX “Swarovski” is available globally, in women’s sizing, starting September 7 at select retailers.