Nike Goes Luxe

It’s about time

Air Max 90 Royal

For too long, luxury brands have barged into sports shoes territory by outputting their own take of popular sneaker styles. Right now, we’re thinking of the persistent intruder Louis Vuitton. Then there are designers who put their spin on their favourite kicks under the invitation of sports brands. We’re thinking of Riccardo Tisci and Olivier Rousteing, both giving Nike shoes a makeover—the Air Force 1 and Free Mercurial Flyknit X respectively, just two among other styles that both have worked on.

Now, Nike’s fighting back. Last year, for Air Max day (which, this year, fell on 26th March, three days ago, with the campaign tag “kiss my airs”), the world’s most popular shoe brand released an Air Max 1 dubbed ‘Royal’ that sneakerheads were quick to call the most luxurious ever while the media hailed it a “stellar release”. Then, five months later, came the Air Safari, also given the Royal treatment. SOTD did not get to see the Royals until the end of last year, when we came face to face with the Air Max 90 Royal, not once but twice—in London, at Dover Street Market and Footpatrol.

As the name suggests, Royals receive a rather regal treatment when it comes to materials and finishes. Supple suede, as the main upper, is a material of choice and here, Nike made it one-tone (the Swoosh and other branding look embossed). This is further enhanced with leather details that truly augment the built’s premium feel and look.  Indeed, the Air Max 90 has never looked this fine.

Air Max 90 Royal Pic 2

The softness of the suede somehow tones down an otherwise hunky shoe, so much so that the normally thick tongue is now a thin skin that sits very comfortably atop the foot—even when you’re sockless. The typical padding of the Air Max 90 seems reduced too, which makes the Royal version rather streamlined. But more unique (and the pull is clearly here) is the quadrilateral that frames the visible air sole near the heels: it’s now in a piece of leather that goes right under the outer sole, sitting firmly among the grips. Perhaps because of this, the Royal is a tad heavier than even the leather versions: 6 grams more.

A piece of leather is also slipped between the upper and the midsole, forming a corridor, on top of which the quadrilateral sits and is top-stitched. The natural tan of both immediately brings to mind Hender Scheme’s take of sneaker classics, such as Nike’s very own Air Presto, in which designer Ryo Kashiwazaki re-imagines the world’s favourite kicks in hand-crafted, natural and unstained leather. The irony of this is not lost: even a giant such as Nike cannot escape the influence of the indie-shoe maker.

That Nike would forge a path alongside luxury brands is not surprising. Through the years, they have been releasing shoes that go beyond the USD200 threshold, culminating in the self-lacing HperAdapt, which was sold at USD720—not counting what you’ll find on eBay. In fact, since the introduction of NikeLab in 2014 (with only a few boutique-like stores around the world—last count six), Nike has been offering “exclusives” way beyond their typical price points. Sure, all eyes are on the Nikelab VaporMax—launched 3 days ago—but that being completely new is, as expected, sold out. The Air Max 90 is the most elegant in the Air Max family and a luxurious version is always welcome.

Nike Air Max 90 Royal Cool Grey, SGD359, is available at Limited Edn Vault, 313@Sommerset. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

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