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David Creech on the Evolution of Flight Utility

The VP of Design for Jordan Brand discusses the progress of the Jumpman’s contemporary design philosophy for apparel and footwear.

Jordan Brand is driven by attitude.

On the surface there is a champion’s swagger. But below, and more important, lies the resolve to adapt, evolve and grow.

One of the most powerful Jordan Brand advertisements of all time celebrates the value of iterative process. It begins with MJ acknowledging that he’s missed more shots than he’s made; failed to hit game winners more than he’s succeeded. Ultimately, it finishes acknowledging that these moments positioned him to thrive.

Like sport, design requires an acute assessment of progress. Testing a hypothesis, however audacious, allows us to define the proposition that should carry us forward. And, as I’ve said before, leaps of faith and daring are the best places from which to imagine.

September 2018 was a turning point in design philosophy for Jordan Brand. As we prepared to launch the Air Jordan XXXIII, we also crystallized our ethos of Flight Utility. It is about taking the best of NIKE, Inc. innovation and applying a distinct Jordan filter — defined by extrapolating from Jordan Brand’s heritage and marrying that to a future-forward, function-first approach to product.

Leaps of faith and daring are the best places from which to imagine.

This is a philosophy that still holds true, and is also one that has advanced. We believe in continued consideration of new technologies and materials, and acknowledge the value of opening those up through a cultural aperture. When we take leaps of faith and daring, we are doing so considering both technical capacity and the contemporary spirit of the brand.

One way of achieving this is by listening to the voice of the athlete. The Jordan XXXIII brought the game shoe forward, progressing the legacy of visible technology in the Jordan line and challenging aesthetic norms. Similarly, with Russell Westbrook’s Why Not Zer0.2. we can craft on-court footwear that, in his words, “takes storytelling to the next level.”

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The Jordan XXXIII introduced Nike FastFit technology.

Another way Jordan Brand is advancing comes through partnership. PSG has allowed Jordan Brand to deliver fresh ideas in unexpected ways. We are simultaneously able to expand into a new arena — football — and play off the long-standing emotional connections held between the brand and the city of Paris. It works because of this duality — design innovation matched with an authentic connection. From a lifestyle perspective, we’re also harnessing the undeniable strength of that balance with Aleali May and Travis Scott, partners who also embody the Jordan Brand attitude.

While highly visible, our partnerships are just one layer of how Jordan Brand is evolving a modern design language. I’m most proud of this in two proof points: the Modern footwear collection and 23 Engineered apparel.

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The women's-exclusive Air Latitude 720 is one example of how a broaden perspective has realized new Jordan Brand silhouettes.

With the Jordan Proto-Max 720, Jordan Proto-React and Jordan Apex React, the Modern collection expanded the Flight Utility design ethos of the Jordan 33 to lifestyle footwear. The silhouettes allowed us to focus on off-court comfort, and in utilizing the Air Max 720 and Nike React technology we balanced an aeronautical-inspired design language with cutting-edge platforms. 

The Air Latitude 720 also helped us open the Modern collection's design language to a whole new audience, applying a different cultural filter to the past and creating a provocative design exclusively for women. We’ve also just signed two new athletes to our roster, rising WNBA stars Asia Durr and Kia Nurse, both of whom represent the game’s new generation and will offer valuable perspective in designing for the future of the sport.

With 23 Engineered apparel, we utilize intriguing materials and methods of garment manufacturing to give silhouettes rooted in basketball culture a modern lens.

Pushing benchmarks forward is essential to the Jordan Brand DNA and is the driving force in formulating Flight Utility as a launching point rather than a static mood. 23 Engineered is about redefining basketball-inspired apparel as the pinnacle of lifestyle apparel. We consciously ground this apparel in the moment — striping the designs to essentials of form and pattern. With bold graphics, we want to trigger reaction. With limitless conviction, we are introducing the modern look of Jordan sportswear.

The intent is two-fold: Create clear expectation in the line (multi-dimensional utility, clean lines) and present a staple aesthetic.

With limitless conviction, we are introducing the modern look of Jordan sportswear.

We succeed when we stay rooted in the Jordan attitude, not only in its starting point, but in striving to set new standards in basketball culture. Or, more definitively, create the icons of the future.

Read More: Jordan Brand Design