Sustainable and premium. Durable but light. Engineered for performance. Nike Flyleather is a new super material — made with at least 50 percent recycled natural leather fiber and water power — that has the potential to be as game-changing as Nike Flyknit.
"The earth is the athlete’s biggest playground, so one of our greatest opportunities is to create breakthrough products while protecting our planet,” says Hannah Jones, Nike Chief Sustainability Officer and VP of the Innovation Accelerator. “Nike Flyleather is an important step toward ensuring athletes always have a place to enjoy sport."
Here’s a detailed look at how engineers, scientists and designers created Nike’s lowest carbon-footprint leather material ever.
During a typical leather manufacturing process, up to 30 percent of a cow’s hide is discarded and often ends up in a landfill. To reduce this waste, Nike gathers the discarded leather scrap from the floor of tanneries and turns them into fibers. Then, those recycled leather fibers are combined with synthetic fibers and a fabric infrastructure via a hydro process with a force that’s so strong it fuses everything into one material. The material then goes through a finishing process, which can include things like pigmentation, and is completed by being put on a roll to be cut.
Picture premium leather. Touch premium leather. Flyleather looks and feels just like that: premium leather. “Nike Flyleather completely mimics athletic, pigmented full-grain leathers in everything from fit to touch,” says Tony Bignell, Nike VP of Footwear Innovation. "Unlike with traditional leathers, Flyleather can be produced with a consistent grade across a broader range of product."
For Nike, leather is featured across many iconic footwear styles — but it has the second-highest environmental impact on Nike's carbon emissions and water usage. Flyleather can change that. These are the top three reasons why it's Nike’s most sustainable leather material ever:
Creating it uses 90-percent less water and has an 80-percent lower carbon footprint than traditional leather manufacturing
A pair of Nike Flyleather shoes has approximately half the carbon footprint compared to shoes made with traditional leather
Because Nike Flyleather is produced on a roll, it improves cutting efficiency and creates less waste than traditional cut-and-sew methods for full-grain leather
And not only does Flyleather enable Nike to create less initial waste, its process makes it one of Nike’s most sustainable innovations ever. “Nike believes in science, and that climate change is real,” says Jones. “That’s why Flyleather is a game-changer. As we witness the impact of climate change, the world is getting after a low-carbon economy, and Nike is innovating it.”
Nike Flyleather is 40-percent lighter and five times stronger than traditional leather (based on abrasion testing). It has the potential to reinvent leather-like materials into performance footwear unlike ever before (early on, many performance basketball shoes were made out of leather, but over time, it was swapped out for other lighter, stronger, performance-engineered materials), especially in sports like football and basketball.
“Similar to what Nike Flyknit did for knit, Nike Flyleather can do for leather,” says John Hoke, Nike Chief Design Officer. “New technologies and platforms allow us to get closer to working at the molecular level. Flyleather is the latest example of this, and is particularly exciting because it allows for increased potential to extend our craft with more precision. This means opportunity for greater strength, support, elasticity and so on, based on the needs of specific sports.”
This impact of discovery goes beyond the leather category. “By opening up the possibilities to engineer performance leather, we are creating a new conversation across performance categories to include materials that have otherwise been retired from the options list for products such as footwear, apparel and equipment,” says Bignell.
The very first product to feature Nike Flyleather is the Nike Flyleather Tennis Classic, a distinctive, all-white version of the premium court shoe. The Nike Flyleather Tennis Classic will be available September 18 on nike.com and at the Nike SoHo store, NikeLab 21 Mercer and Dover Street Market in New York City.
The new all-white Nike Flyleather Tennis Classic
To complement the release of the Nike Flyleather Tennis Classic, Nike has also created limited editions of the next generation Nike Flyleather footwear – versions of the Air Force 1, Air Max 90, Cortez, Jordan 1, and Tennis Classic— that are made in Oregon and will be seen in New York during Climate Week NYC. Click on each entry to learn more about how you can enter to win one of these special-edition shoes.
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