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Remembering the Nike Alpha Project

Nike Alpha Project Header

Long before futuristic product categories like NikeLab and ISPA existed, there was the Nike Alpha Project. The short-lived but impactful line of shoes, apparel and accessories took an uncompromising athlete approach to performance products, which undeniably influenced today’s futuristic footwear vision. By adopting new ideas and non-traditional forms – all branded with a cryptic row of five dots – this ephemeral enterprise left its mark on the world.

Director’s Cut

Retrospectively, it seemed like the Alpha Project was simply an excuse for Nike to throw a bunch of money at Michael Bay to direct some over-the-top, albeit fairly funny TV spots to launch it. French director Michel Gondry also got in on the action with a couple of memorable commercials. Nike athletes, chiefly Gary Payton, gave the product athletic provenance. The print ads were also irreverent and occasionally cheeky.

Thankfully, the products were as good as the marketing. Bear in mind that back in the 1990s and 2000s, most new Swoosh designs were intended for athletic use. Of course, some sneakerheads and influential figures like Hiroshi Fujiwara quickly adopted these performance shoes for casual use – the latter selecting the Zoom Seismic for 2001’s ‘Monotone Pack’. The Air Presto – famous for its t-shirt sizing – also proved a street favourite.

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