Behind the Design: Nike Zoom Vapor X 'Kyrie 5'
Tennis has been serving up some real collaborative drip in the sneakersphere of late, Off-White’s recent link up with Serena Williams presenting the sport with an opportunity to extend its cultural influence in the broader streetwear scene.
The latest NikeCourt Vapor X ‘Kyrie 5’ mashup delivers one of the most dynamic cultural crossovers seen in recent memory, the Swoosh technically remixing the much-lauded Kyrie 5 to suit Nick Kyrgios’ inimitable on-court game and long-time love of the Boston Celtics.
We chatted with NikeCourt footwear product director Alex Restivo to suss how it all went down.
Steetwear is really starting to forge strong links to the tennis world. What do you think contributed to the change in culture?
Tennis is unique because it's the one sport where there really is a runway head-to-toe. Most other sports have uniforms or strict rules regarding what they need to wear on-court or on-field. Tennis really is a runway for these brands to tell a unique story based on an athlete's personality. I think people have seen this opportunity lately — streetwear brands, influencers, and athletes in other sports.
Speaking of personalities, how did the Kyrie Irving and Nick Kyrgios collaboration take shape?
Whenever we met with Nick he was always talking about Kyrie. He had to make a choice when he was a kid on whether to be a pro basketball player or a pro tennis player. He had this alter ego … he always loved basketball and continues to love the sport. For his birthday last year, we created two Celtics colorways of the Vapor 10s. That kind of sparked the idea. The product manager on our team, Jay Morris, had an idea to approach the basketball team at Nike to see what they had planned for the Kyrie … the story had a lot of amazing depth to it.
The basketball team at Nike were keen from the beginning?
They were about it from the minute that we talked to them. Our design team went out to the factory and took the Vapor 10 bottom and put a Kyrie 5 upper on it, just to see what it would look like. We had to make adjustments with the collar height, some durability for dragging, and the Flytrap system. From there we started road testing it. There’s been a lot of learnings across both the basketball and tennis team at Nike.
Was there much of a crossover when designing sneakers for basketball and tennis?
There's a lot of similar properties to both basketball and tennis shoes when it comes to court feel, lockdown and stability. The lockdown of this Flytrap system was really eye-opening to us, it provides an amazing benefit. Kyrie's movements on court are very similar to a tennis athlete. The basketball team studied tennis a little bit more when working with Kyrie, because they needed to measure his speed at all angles. There was this really natural, unique connection between our athletes.
How did you modify the Kyrie 5 for the tennis court?
Whenever you pay homage to another model, you always want to keep it as close to the OG as possible right?
We started with the OG basketball design and had to consider tennis-specific details. The collar height is one area that was key. The Kyrie 5 is more of a midtop, whereas our Vapor 10 is more of a lowtop that falls within the height of what Nick uses on the tennis court. Another key difference is the rubber toe capture ability. In tennis, when Nick’s out on court and it's 110 degrees out and he's sliding and dragging his foot, we have to make sure that he has premium durability. To keep up with his natural pace, we added a rubber toe cap that's built up in high wear areas.
Did you work to their personalities when you were designing?
Oh, for sure. In terms of colourways, we'll really relate it back to a moment. We made sure that the launch colourway was really iconic and true to tennis — we specifically created the hot lava—inspired colourway for the Australian Open.
Will there be new editions dropping?
We'll definitely have new colourways in the big moments for Nick Kyrgios. Put it this way, Nick will wear his sneaker on the tennis court all year round.