‘Ectoplasm!’shouted the sales clerk in Foot Locker when I tried on my first Kukinis.
Mucus-related banter aside, the Kukini has to be one of the craziest models to make
it off the Nike drawing board. Released at a time when Nike were willing to explore
alternative lacing and fastening systems – see the Seismic for an earlier example –
the Kukini is a far more functional shoe than it is credited for. Extremely lightweight,
with plenty of Air in the sole, the thermopolyurethane webbing holds the foot securely
but allows enough flex and movement to prevent discomfort.
Sketched by Sean McDowell, the original design was allegedly inspired by the spiderweb styling of Picabo Street’s Olympic ski suit but the end result is clearly an acquired taste.
As an object, the Kukini excels: it’s sleek without resorting to overtly feminine styling, aesthetically interesting without being gimmicky and damn exciting to try on. Where
many saw ugliness, others saw true no-boundaries design.
The most memorable Kukinis were the lurid colourways.
The first season saw a blue water pattern on the
upper, whilst later releases were yellow, red, grey
and even print-registration styled CMYK polka
dots. Special editions came from everywhere,
including the US Olympic edition, the extremely
rare Coca-Cola sweepstakes and a beautiful
monotone series designed by Junya Watanabe.
Check out our next feature: 2011 - BEST OF THE BEST SNEAKERS