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Nike And The AirMax 720 Are Breathing Fresh Air In A Congested Industry

By John Kim

Nike just reported strong Q1 2019 numbers thanks to two key ingredients – footwear products that go beyond expectations, and an incredible marketing campaign that has yielded polarizing, powerful, and vindicating results. Here’s how the Swoosh maintained its pole position: their unwavering commitment to athletes and sport that serves as the backbone of their strategy, and an unstoppable Sportswear wing that has delivered incredible product from all corners. Whether it be the jaw-dropper that is the React Element 87 or the endearing partnerships with labels like Off-White and ACRONYM, Nike’s success comes from their innovative identity shining through, piercing the fog of fast-fashion micro-trends and collaborators that only speak for themselves.
Air Max, as you know, has been around for over three decades now. In that time, we’ve seen a masterful legacy born from outstanding design and performance, but it’s the shapelessness of this gas that reflects its endless potential. Earlier this year, Nike created the tallest Air bag ever. But not months later, they’ve already surpassed it with something we’ve never experienced before. Has Nike just scratched the surface?

  • Air Max 720 Northern Lights

As mentioned, earlier in 2018, Nike ushered in the Air Max 270 and its dramatic heel unit. As the first-ever Air Max sneaker created specifically for lifestyle/casual wear, the new 270 model was quickly adapted by consumers and was logged as one of the best selling sneakers of the year’s first fiscal quarter. With a trampoline-like feel, uncompromised stability, and affinity for attractive color-blocking, the 270 was destined for success. Dylan Raasch and Jesi Small, who spearheaded this project for Nike Sportswear’s Air Max footwear category, continued the push to create a shoe specifically for the athlete of the streets – those who hustle and grind and stay on their feet for up to sixteen hours a day.

For the 720 model, the design team pulled in from various sources of information to create a shoe built for a generation always on the go. They met with consumers, particularly from the younger demographic, to discuss various topics from what a typical day in the grind consists of to the physical effects of absorbing the daily barrage of noise from social and political turbulence. It was all summarized in one word: Drained. The purpose of this focus group was to not only deliver a product that fills consumers needs, but one that communicates comfort and support in more ways than one. They specifically pointed to the idea of conservation, shift, and exchange of energy, and implemented those transactions onto a shoe that mirrors emotion.

  • 360-degree visibility Horizontally and vertically

The upper speaks to a “retro future” motif, harkening back to Nike’s early-mid 2000s design language of creating out-of-this-world footwear in an expressive manner, with unusual shapes and a built-up stance expressing the imagination of an unseen future. The 720 bag itself goes even farther than the aforementioned Air Max 270; it’s 6mm taller and is now the tallest Air bag ever created by Nike. It also extends further out and creates a new sensation of Air that not only provides buoyancy and nimbleness, but cradles the foot. Additionally, the 720 name comes from the fact that the Air unit is visible in 360 degrees horizontally and vertically.

“If the retro part is what informs the upper, then the future part is this Air bag.”

  Dylan Raasch on the 720’s retro-future aesthetic

With an explosive look that exudes positive energy, the Air Max 720 now needed an introductory colorway that radiated outward. According to the Nike color team, over 85% of consumer buying is done based on color, which can be a challenge for planning given the entire process takes up to thirty months. The team looked to honor the planet and landed on the color-shifting palette of blues and purples inspired by the Northern Lights to coerce an awestruck sense of wonder at nature. Several other color themes based on the sunset and sunrise as well as lakes, dunes, forests, and more are certainly on the way, while a “Milky Way” version will drop on Air Max Day 2019.


The 720 bag is far from your typical full-length set-up. Instead, the fattest portion of the air unit is around the border so that the foot sits above it like how one sits above an inner-tube. With the foot completely cradled, the 720 provides enough bounce and stability built for daily use and especially for those who are on their feet from twelve to sixteen hours a day. While the principle itself seems simple, it took a lot of R&D to get the bag just right, and Nike’s even taking those learnings to produce remastered iterations of classic Air Max models from the past to give as as much Air from the original days.

As Nike continues to push boundaries of innovative design, they’re also cognizant of carbon footprints. Over 70% of the new Air Max 720 bags consist of recycled waste, whereas 95% of waste from Air Manufacturing is completely reused. Additionally, all of Nike’s Air Manufacturing facilities in the United States will be powered by clean, renewable energy by 2019. Their stance on sustainability is a challenge to themselves; there should be no trade-off between lightening their footprint and improving performance.
The Air Max 720 will debut in 2019 in the “Northern Lights” colorway. Several more colorways will arrive during Air Max Day 2019.

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