With only a mysterious, laser-heavy invitation to go on, The Drop Date made our way down to Bateman’s Row with great anticipation last Wednesday. Having closed its doors four weeks ago for renovation, we were excited to see what was to become of 1948 – Nike’s top tier London retail location – and the answer became clear immediately. 1948’s reopening is part of a much wider transformation of Nike’s consumer experience; along with New York’s 21 Mercer, Paris’ Le Marais and other premium retail locations in Milan, Shanghai and Hong Kong, 1948 has become NikeLab.
NikeLab looks to differentiate the Swoosh’s most innovative creations by presenting a retail aesthetic, both physical and digital, that carries the same pioneering design principles as the products themselves. These principles – less is more, lightweight, functionality, sustainability and modularity – have led to the formation of a quite brilliant retail space. Aiming to close the loop in regards to the creative reuse of material, the designers (Tim Rupp and Arthur Huang) have triumphed. Mechanically customisable fixtures are built from discarded computer motherboards, the floor is granulated rubber from old footwear as part of Nike Grind, and the display tables are carved from the old benches in the courtyard. Reminders of the previous iteration of the store are everywhere: even the scarlet 1948 has been collapsed and now appears in slivers throughout the outdoor seating. What is clear is that 1948 has not been replaced, it has been evolved.
Becoming the first product launched at NikeLab, the NIKE FREE MERCURIAL SUPERFLY HTM encapsulates exactly the principles that drive the entire project; situated directly at the intersection of sport, design and culture, this shoe is NikeLab. With its presentation alongside the boot version that is centre stage over in Brazil, Nike have made evident the dialogical relationship they have engineered between performance footwear and sport style—each informs the other because the design principles are identical.
After the demonstration of NikeLab was complete, the event moved on to Village Underground where there were further installations to demonstrate Nike’s design ethos and exhibit previous top tier sportswear projects, including the Roundel by London Underground and Dizzee Rascal Tongue n Cheek makeups. Performances from FKA Twigs and Breach set the evening off perfectly, while Nike’s hospitality was enjoyed by all well into the night.