From Creative to Collaborator: miniswoosh Interview
Date: March 08 2018
By: Vinny Tang
How did you develop the miniswoosh style?
It all started during my first year of university. I’ve always been interested in questioning functionality, which led me to start experimenting with different materials and creating new items of apparel. This was right around the time that Instagram was starting up, so I decided to use the app as a platform to share my work, and it was that cycle of finding materials, creating products then uploading them to @studioalch that really helped me develop my practice.
Initially I was very experimental, working with a wide range of perhaps ridiculous materials ranging from AstroTurf to 2 Minute Noodle packets and banana peels, but as my studies went on, I became much more interested in functional products and the sportswear industry. I began working with more technical textiles like NASA space foil and other polyethylenes – materials with functions that could easily be translated into sportswear.
I’m also really interested in the concept of extending the lifespan of products that would have originally just been thrown out. The concept of reconstruction, deconstruction and nontraditional material experimentation has always been the main focus of my studio practice and main brand, ALCH.
What drew you to Nike?
I think what’s really inspiring is that there are so many different kinds of iconography and design cues from Nike’s history to draw from. Whether it’s something small like the heel tab on a TN or an outsole pattern, or the shape of a shoe box – there are so many things to play with under the Nike umbrella that have instant recognition.
I’m also a huge fan of Nike’s general ethos – their approach to positive sportsmanship and ambition is so motivating and can be applied to so many facets of life.
How did the partnership with Nike come about?
It developed when I relocated to the UK in 2015. After working for Nike on their retail side, I really wanted to continue being affiliated with the company, but from a more creative perspective. Living in Australia, you feel so far away from huge brands like Nike, and the idea of being able to have an influence on them, or even potentially work with them directly, was always a foreign concept.
This changed quite dramatically when I moved to London as I felt like I was much closer to the action – especially working at Footpatrol. I’ve always been very vocal about my love for Nike in the hope that my passion would inspire the brand to work with me collaboratively. Social media was also a huge contributing factor. I’m fascinated by the concept of personal branding and Nike plays an unequivocal role in mine. I’m a firm believer that if you believe in your brand strongly enough, others will too.
It really began with getting invited to a few consultancy meetings at Nike’s HQ, where I was given the opportunity to view upcoming product and offer my opinion. Then one day I was invited to the office for what I believed to be a similar consultancy meeting, but I was presented with the chance to be part of the Vote Forward campaign for Air Max Day. It all happened very quickly – I honestly never thought I’d be able to have a partnership of that scale.
Nike have generally distanced themselves from anyone reinterpreting the brand, especially the Swoosh. It seems like the Vote Forward campaign was a big step towards embracing the creativity that people like you bring to the table.
That’s actually a really interesting topic because I do personally feel that Nike are loosening up quite a bit. They’re becoming a lot more open to the possibilities surrounding collaboration and it’s so inspiring and encouraging to witness people with such a passion for the brand be given the opportunity to work with them directly.
Earlier this year I was invited to host a one-day workshop at Blue Ribbon Studio in the Portland HQ. Staff signed up and we worked with all these unorthodox Nike textiles to make new products and apparel. It was a very experimental and hands-on experience and it was a truly eye-opening opportunity for me to be able to speak to so many employees and see what’s possible on campus.
I also designed a capsule range of custom Nike pieces for the NikeLab Shanghai team to style with their upcoming product for an exhibition for Shanghai Fashion Week.
Since Nike has embraced your work, some of your new pieces seem to be more of a direct collaboration with the brand.
In terms of official collaborations, then yes I agree. To celebrate the release of the ‘The Basement’ Dunk Low, I created a chore jacket and a waist bag. Both items were made from the original Dunk materials and trims. So, despite being made in-house at my studio, they were all Swoosh-branded, made from Nike fabrications and fastenings and sold as official Nike product.
The majority of my pieces remain personal projects or one-offs. Occasionally I’ll do stuff for friends and family or drop a small run via my online store, but mostly I just see my work as a tangible representation of my appreciation for the brand. I would prefer to collaborate directly with Nike to produce pieces rather than release them myself.
So what does the future of miniswoosh look like?
My answer to this kind of question changes every few weeks, because new opportunities continue to present themselves. In a nutshell though, the dream would simply be to continue working collaboratively with Nike on the development of products that further our shared vision and passion for design and innovation.
Photos: Dom Fleming
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Originally published in Sneaker Freaker Issue 39. Get your copy here!