April 25, 2012 BY Aaron Kr.
Many sneaker fanatics and aficionados never take into consideration the painstaking efforts that go into creating the shoes that they love. The design process can be a tedious one, especially when you consider all of the factors that can sometimes tie a designer’s hands. One of the largest stumbling blocks is the need to keep materials and costs manageable in order to ensure that the final product is affordable for consumers and profitable for the brand. While we’d all love to see our Nike’s loaded up with large Air Max bags, full-length Zoom units, carbon fiber, foam and all those other costly amenities, the bottom line is that these coveted luxuries can often drive pricepoints out of control, urging the need for more cost-effective material options in their place.
But what would happen if Nike completely unchained the leash and opened the premium floodgates in the name of the ultimate performance basketball footwear? The answer is the Nike Basketball Elite Series, a no holds barred assault on the conventional design process and the budgeting limitations that can so often hold it back. For Nike Basketball designers Jason Petrie and Leo Chang, the Elite Series project is like a dream come true. With pricepoint constraints thrown out the window, the gloves were finally off to go out and reach for the pinnacle of performance basketball footwear glory. That kind of freedom doesn’t come along very often for most footwear designers, and when it does, it’s accompanied by a responsibility to meet lofty expectations.
For Jason, Leo and the rest of the Nike BBall team, the solution was to go back to the beginning to analyze and evaluate every aspect of each existing model to determine each and every place where performance could be enhanced. Materials were added, removed, invented, tweaked and shaved down, making the shoes lighter and stronger, as well as more responsive and comfortable, all in the name of providing NBA athletes and the consumers who buy the shoes with the ultimate option for the rigorous post season push. Right down to the types of threads that are woven into the laces and the sticky grips that contour to your step on the footbed, every possible detail has been considered and tailored to maximize the overall function of the shoe. The price tags might seem a bit high when you see these hit stores this weekend, but you get what you pay for and the Nike Basketball Elite Series has just raised the bar for what performance luxury can mean to a sneaker.
Continue reading for part 1 of our interview with Jason Petrie and Leo Chang and check back tomorrow for the follow-up featuring everything you need to know about upcoming Elite Series colorways.
Sneaker News: Since news of the Elite Series first leaked out, whenever the topic comes up, the discussion immediately goes right to the high price tag, so I think the logical starting point is to ask right off the bat – what makes the Elite series elite and what about these shoes justifies such a drastic jump in the pricepoints from what people are used to seeing for a premium basketball shoe?
Leo Chang: With the Elite Series, our goal was to take arguably our best products that we currently do right now – the LeBron, the Hyperdunk and the Kobe – and make them even better. So it’s the best of the best for the most important time for NBA players right now, which is going for that run for the trophy. So for us, it was really taking the shackles off and allowing us to truly make innovative product that was purely around the performance problem solving that we deal with.
There are a lot of brands that use premium leathers and all these luxury materials because of the status of those materials. For us, we’ve used the most premium materials for performance, like carbon fiber, like kevlar, Pro-Combat. Even down to the fine details like the sockliner, to even the laces to make sure everything is tuned for performance.
Jason Petrie: That’s a really cool notion and I think that’s something we’ve picked up at Nike Basketball – that performance luxury. You get the luxury through that lens of performance, like a McLaren that’s all about getting around the Nürburgring faster than anybody ever could. It’s not about having a dope sound system in there. It’s not about having leather seats and all that kinda stuff. It’s about being performance first. And it’s still a million dollar luxury vehicle because of that performance.