Nike’s Most Important Apparel Innovation in 20 Years Hides in This ‘Basic’

Just as good ingredients should be paired with the simplest cooking, so that diners can taste the "original taste" of food, major technological material innovations also like to challenge the "basic models". It is precisely because everyone is familiar with them that they can better demonstrate the capabilities of new technologies.

This time, Nike's new technology, Nike Forward, challenges the must-have hoodie for fall and winter.

"Stylish" is the first impression.

Before you take it out from the packaging, you can feel its three-dimensional shape from the clothes itself, and the sense of space behind them is also very nice.

The double layer fleece and exposed stitching build up the hat that stands tall, with or without it.

The inside and outside of the hoodie have different textures – the outer layer is a crisp flat and tough fabric, and the inner layer is a softer fleece.

The "little black strips" regularly arranged on the fabric are a "mark" of Nike Forward technology.

Generally speaking, the construction of fleece fabrics is divided into three steps:

① Obtain raw material fibers;

② "Spinning": weaving fibers into yarn;

③"Weaving": Weaving yarn into fabric by knitting or weaving process.

But Nike Forward "jumped" a step.

Nike transformed the "acupuncture process" originally used in the automotive and medical industries into the production of apparel fabrics, directly connecting multiple layers of fabrics into the final fabric, skipping the "spinning" step.

At the same time, this new technology allows Nike Forward to reduce the density of fabrics and make clothes lighter while meeting thermal standards.

By reducing the spinning process, using recycled materials and lower fabric density, Nike Forward's carbon footprint can be significantly reduced compared to traditional pile fabrics.

The material is sustainable without sacrificing comfort, design style or performance.

Aaron Heiser, vice president of global apparel product marketing at Nike, introduced Nike Forward.

In my opinion, using sustainable materials for "style" is a big advantage for Nike.

Just as the "Space Hippie" shoes launched in 2020 actively displayed recycled materials to create a special "garbage aesthetic", Nike Forward also confidently turned the characteristics of technology and fabrics into details full of "original beauty".

The "little black bar" just mentioned? That is the mark left by the acupuncture process, and it has also become the special "texture" of the hoodie.

The gray color matching is classic and durable, and it is also the original color of the fabric. There is no additional dyeing process to save water.

The neat pockets are eye-catching? That is what the original cut achieves.

In order to fully demonstrate the characteristics of the fabric, the whole garment does not have any zippers or additional decorative parts. This also allows the garment to be recycled in its entirety when it reaches the end of its life cycle.

This is a product that has "circularity" in mind from the very beginning.

Carmen Zolman, vice president of apparel design for Nike NXT , said .

From waffle machine to acupuncture machine, innovation is to "step over the boundary"

The origin of Nike…is a waffle?

In 1971, Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman fretted over how to replace the metal nails on his track shoes, until a breakfast waffle inspired him :

You know, if you put it upside down — the waffle part touches the runway — I think it would work.

After talking to his wife, Bowerman didn't eat the waffles, and ran to the lab and poured the melted urethane into the waffle maker. This is the source of the future Nike waffle bottom, and that waffle machine also made Nike's first pair of shoes, "Moon Shoes".

In 2012, in order to create "sock-like" shoes, Nike transformed the knitting machine for knitting sweater socks, integrated programming, and created FlyKnit technology that makes the upper lighter and reduces waste.

Since its launch, the FlyKnit app has continued to grow, and within five years of its initial release, the technology has generated $1 billion in revenue for Nike.

Nike Forward, which took 5 years to develop and build, has been called the most important clothing innovation by Nike in 20 years, and it is also highly expected. Zolman has stated:

Similar to Flyknit ten years ago, we've created a new material that could revolutionize the industry.

She emphasized at the launch event that Nike Forward is not just a material, but an innovation platform.

This time the hoodie material is lightweight and warm, and the needle-punching process connects four layers of material to meet the performance requirements. In the future, Nike can also create new combinations based on other performance needs.

At the same time, compared with traditional processes, Nike Forward's process for processing recycled materials is also simpler, which is more in line with Nike's sustainable development direction.

Do a good job of sustainability, and you will have a good business

In today's increasingly scarce resources and increasing consumer awareness, sustainability has become a must for large companies.

According to Noa Gafni, director of the Rutgers Institute for Corporate Social Innovation, sustainability and a company’s business success are also closely linked:

If sustainability is seen as the icing on the cake, it will surely fail. It will ultimately not be successful for the company's reputation or goals – be it financially, socially, or environmentally.

Of course, it's not easy.

It's really hard not to get super excited about the products because they're all unique. But operator improvements are really a key part of driving (sustainability).

Nike Chief Sustainability Officer Noel Kinder said earlier in a roundtable discussion. Kinder has even admitted in past interviews that the main reason Nike has previously failed to meet its carbon reduction targets is its over-reliance on aggregate metrics.

Now, Nike is adopting " operationalization of sustainability". This means that sustainable work is no longer the task of a dedicated team, but is deeply embedded in all business units.

That's why we're seeing sustainable improvements in every other area, in addition to innovations in manufacturing processes and products like Nike Forward.

In terms of packaging, Nike launched a shoe box called "One Box" this year, which uses one box to complete the work of "express box + shoe box" during express delivery.

At the same time, we can also see Nike extending sustainable development to other supply chain links that are relatively “unfamiliar” to consumers – recently, it announced the start of the construction of a distributed wind power generation project in a logistics center in China, and the facility is scheduled to be completed in early 2023 The investment will be able to achieve 100% renewable energy power coverage for Nike's logistics in China.

Another change is that we are also seeing Nike becoming more and more active in inviting consumers to participate in sustainable actions.

Recently, Nike and Ant United Group have cooperated to make the Nike Grind program, which has been implemented for many years (turning recycled old shoes into sports fields and runways, etc.), reach more users through Alipay Ant Forest.

In the store, Nike also plans to launch an "upgrade workshop" to invite users to experience the joy of bringing new life to old things.

In the process of understanding Nike Forward, I also noticed that Nike Forward has a "Carbon Footprint Assessment" report on its official website for consumers and internal reference.

This report introduces Nike Forward's carbon footprint evaluation system, production process, and even explains what products the carbon reduction is compared to, why those products are compared and other factors that need to be explained.

"Vogue Business" pointed out in the white paper "Decoding China's Generation Z's Sustainable Consumption Concept" previously released that many people in Generation Z care about sustainability, and at the same time have a relatively clear understanding of it, and are reluctant to be "leek" .

Greenwashing is real. But companies are making more and more efforts to make sure they're not doing it. —Noa Gafni

When it comes to sustainability, consumers are only getting more demanding.

Nike responded by doing more action and opening up a more transparent conversation.

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