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Highsnobiety Q&A February, 13 2014

Highsnobiety Q&A | Nike Global Football Footwear Product Director Shawn Hoy

Hot on the release of the Nike Tiempo ’94 and V, we made our way to the Bavarian capital to catch up with Nike Global Football Footwear Product Director Shawn Hoy. Before discussing the athletic giant’s latest innovation, however, we laced on a pair of Vs and played a few quick exhibitions to discover the boots’ abilities for ourselves. Afterwards, German football star Jerome Boateng joined us to introduce the Tiempo ’94 and discuss his passion for both shoes. Once we had a clearer idea of what each party brought to the table, we sat down with Shawn to learn more about both shoes.

Why did you decide to adapt the Tiempo for lifestyle use?

I think what we looked at was its heritage. You know, in many ways it was the perfect storm; we had twenty years of celebrating on-pitch performance and we’ve been on this strategy for quite some time, like how do we extend performance to both on-pitch football and lifestyle? So really, the two just married up perfectly with a big opportunity to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the on-pitch Tiempo. And what better to way to leverage that energy than by taking the Tiempo off-pitch as well? I think the other element that kind of worked in our favor with Tiempo was some of the iconic elements of the shoe. The leather is one, the oversized tongue is clearly another, so it gave us an opportunity to just rip off the on-pitch story in a way that consumers should immediately recognize.

Were there any challenges you faced when trying to adapt this boot for the streets?

Yes, I mean it’s always a bit challenging because when you’re creating lifestyle products, you’re always at least a little bit at the mercy of trends. So you know, for us it’s about staying true to the aesthetic of the Tiempo to make sure that it’s easily identifiable but then making sure that from an outside perspective, it stays sort of hip and on-trend. In many ways we can set the trend on the performance side but we’re really just only starting now to do that on the lifestyle side.

Soccer and soccer culture are much more popular in certain parts of the world than in others. Is there a market for a shoe like this outside of this culture or do you think it’s mostly limited to fans of the game?

I think there’s a huge market for it. Footballers are the coolest athletes on the planet, right? I mean they drive the hottest cars and they’ve got the hottest look. So I think that’s the exciting opportunity here. You look at some of the players that we have, and Jerome is a great example, he plays for the best club in the world and he’s a phenomenal player. The global exposure he’s gonna get, both this year through the Champions League and then obviously at the World Cup, means that whatever style he presents can go global just like that. Whether you’ve got a kid in the U.S. that loves soccer or a kid in Munich that loves football, I think there’s a huge opportunity here.

There have been a few color variations on the silhouette already. Can we expect more?

Yes, if you look at our history on any product that we do, we’re not shy when it comes to color or changing up the aesthetic of the materials. So yes, I think you can expect to see some more variation on those colors.

Switching over to the V, what aspects do you look for when designing a new shoe?

It all starts with performance. We heavily rely on insights from our athletes and Jerome’s a great example. You take a player like Jerome, who’s performing at the absolute highest level. The first place we start is always with him. “So, Jerome what do you need out of your footwear? How can we improve fit? How can we improve touch? What about underfoot comfort?” And then we talked about it a little bit from a style perspective, “What are you looking for?”

You make the rounds and talk to enough of those players and you very quickly identify what their needs are for the next model. Then we take those insights and transform them into something that only Nike can do. So you know, our goal honestly is to create footwear that in many ways, if you strip the Swoosh off of it, people would say that’s something only Nike could do.

One of the first things I noticed about the shoe is the striking colorway. Where did the idea for the contrast coloring and chrome tongue come from?

In nature there’s a phenomenon called “color flicker” and essentially what it is, is on any surface where you have contrasting colors, like bird’s wings, when that surface moves, when a bird flies, it creates the illusion of speed, so it becomes almost a defense mechanism in nature to create the illusion of what it is that you’re chasing is faster than it actually may be. So, we sort of picked up on that and got super excited about the idea that you can actually create the illusion of speed on a pitch, simply by playing off a color.

Where did the idea for the mixed-material upper and the different layers involved come from?

Leather’s phenomenal and what we know from talking to players like Jerome is that they have very high and clear expectations of how leather needs to perform. The challenge with leather is that it doesn’t respond very well to wet conditions in just about every place where the game is played. There’s a good half of the year where the weather’s not exactly 75℉ and sunny. So what we needed to do is actually think about a way to innovate on leather without compromising the touch. Basically, we needed to keep that same premium touch in the leather but innovate on it in a way that would actually reduce water absorption. So that was job number 1.

Then the other one was getting the packages as close to the foot as we possibly could. And you know the players tell us, “Anything I don’t need, I don’t want! So, how can you compress that package to maybe two layers and get me even closer to the ball?” The way we did it was, we developed this hydrophobic mesh which basically just causes water to disperse, combined that on the inside with this water-resistant package on the outside and you’ve got a boot that just doesn’t absorb as much water and dries much, much quicker. So for those of us who grew up stuffing newspaper in their boots or drying them by a steam radiator, you don’t have to do that anymore!

What about when improving on a previous model, like going from the Tiempo IV to the V? What kind of innovations do you look for there?

Even there, we know straight away. We know even before that shoe, the Tiempo IV as an example, rolls down the line, we’re already thinking about how that shoe could be improved. Right, so all of that comes from insights from our athletes as we go through the wear-testing process. We already have a list of five, ten things that we know, “Ok, so next time, we’re gonna make this even better, we’re gonna make it perfect.” So it still always start from the athlete and then, you know in terms of the aesthetic, this is where we shine. We like to see what everybody else says and take our shoes in a totally different direction. Whereas the Tiempo IV in many ways was about, let’s say it was about simple colorways but with pops of color, the Tiempo V is about a completely different point of view in a way our design team loves to play.

Can we look forward to any other Tiempos being adapted for the lifestyle market?

You can look forward to lots of amazing things coming soon.

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