Ahead of the launch of the third and final collaboration between Nike and Riccardo Tisci, we sat down with the Italian designer to learn more about the collaboration’s roots, inspirations and more.
Although we got a thorough insight into Riccardo Tisci’s mind for Highsnobiety magazine Issue 08, we took the opportunity to chat with the Givenchy Creative Director in Madrid at the unveiling party for the third and final Nike x R.T. Air Force 1 collection. In our opinion the best colorway to date, the fusion fashion sneaker is undoubtedly a sign of the times, combining the street-readiness of sportswear with the aesthetics of high fashion. Take a look at our interview with Riccardo Tisci below and pick up your favorite pair from the collection tomorrow, October 16, at SOTOstore.com.
First off, how did you get involved with Nike? Where did the project come from and how did we get to where we are now?
I started with Nike a long time ago, when I was an adolescent, when I was young. I was always wearing Nike shoes and I was especially obsessed with the Air Force 1 – and I still am. Nike is a very smart and intelligent company and they came to the person that felt the most natural. They knew I felt strongly about sportswear, specifically Nike, so they came to me and they wanted to do this project.
At the beginning it was supposed to be more niche but I didn’t want to design something for rich people, I wanted to design something for everybody else because I come from a pretty poor family, so I know what it’s like to be young and want to wear something and be part of the journey of a designer. We found a way to make it and then they asked me to do one of their most iconic shoes. It was pretty amazing and I’m very flattered that they asked me to do it.
It seems natural as we’ve only ever seen you wearing white Air Force 1s.
Only 1s. Literally it is a caricature. They made a Simpson of me and it’s wearing black jeans, a black T-shirt and white Nike shoes. I’ve been wearing them for 14 years.
If something is so important to you and your personal style, you must also have some respect for it. How do you decide what to change and what to leave as is?
That’s a good point because they gave me carte blanche – I could do whatever I want – but I was very respectful because I respect Nike as a label and the shoes are so beautiful – they’ve survived 30 years of culture. So in the beginning, the project I presented to them was about respect but then it became about roots. I looked at the shoe and I had the shoe in my hands for a long time, but never on my table. Working on it is different though and I didn’t want to change anything, because when I went there, they showed me this technology and Nike is beyond shocking in terms of technology. The technology, not only for material, but of dynamics, how they make things fit on the hands and the body with the legs working in different ways.
So I got all this information over four days in America and I came back home and said I don’t want to do something strange. At the end of the day, the shoes are so beautiful, they’re such an icon so I changed it in the finer details, like the perforation and the stitching. And then I brought what they chose me for, my strengths which are in a way couture and recognizable, part of my style. It was easy because they made it easy for me. It was easy to work with Nike as a company and it was easy because it’s something that I want to wear myself.
“If you had asked me 10 years ago to make a collection with print and color, I would have looked at you like, “are you fucking crazy?”
When you were designing them, did you design them as something you personally would wear?
In general, when I design for outside entities, I don’t design for myself. With the Nike project, I dreamed first and then when it was in the process of being made I kept saying to myself, “even if it looked stupid on everyone else, I would still wear it.” Because for me that’s very important. Not because I represent something special but I’m obsessed with music and going out so I still see what young people like and need. Luckily, it was a success.
The collaboration seemed like such a natural fit that you didn’t need to explain it.
It’s funny because we got so much good press. In general, even press that doesn’t normally deal with this kind of stuff like American Vogue were very keen on it because they were saying it’s such a special moment.
It almost seems like a perfect representation of your vision. What do you think comes after this? Will you just continue with this aesthetic because you think that’s how it should look or do you think your aesthetic will also change?
We have to change because in the world of creativity, you have really creative people and then you have followers. This year marks 10 years as a designer in fashion, actually in March, and if you had asked me 10 years ago to make a collection with print and color, I would have looked at you like, “are you fucking crazy?” Today I wouldn’t design a collection only with black.
Also, I’m traveling a lot and I can be in the most exclusive place with the most exclusive people but that’s not where I’m from. I really live life second by second so I think my perception of creativity is always in metamorphosis. It’s good to change up my style but in the end you’ll still recognize it’s my style. If you look at what I did 10 years ago and what I do today, they’re completely different but you can see there’s a soul and identity behind it.
“I didn’t want to design something for rich people, I wanted to design something for everybody else.”
You drew heavily on basketball in previous collections, has basketball always been part of your life?
I used to play basketball – between 11 and 15. I was a promising junior but then I had an accident and stopped. So the sport has always been in my life in a passive way. Now the feeling is back and I’ve been playing sports again for the last few years. There was this nostalgic love, bringing me back to that sad moment when I was kid and they told me I couldn’t play basketball. But basketball is one of the sports I love the most.
Can we expect more from you and Nike in the future?
We’ve discussed it and, of course, this was a success and I’m very happy and they seem to be very happy as well. So we’ll see. If it’s happening, it’s gonna be a major one. What we’re going to do is going to be very strong.
I can’t talk about it but it’s going to be a design of…it’s gonna be a major thing. I can’t say because I’m very superstitious, but it’ll go beyond fashion and sport. I think it’s interesting and very soon you’re going to know.
This is the first major product bearing your name. Do you see yourself doing more projects like that in the future?
I wish I had a day or 48 hours to do more because I like to make things. But at the same time I want to keep myself special and what I’m doing for my [regular] job is already big. Some other stuff is coming up but we’re not only going to do sports.
So very hand-picked projects?
Yeah, I’m not doing my own collection yet – there’s no way – because I’m having fun doing this and I’m very proud to be able to make luxury products and products that are affordable but that still look and feel luxurious. I’m fighting for that at the moment. Even if people think I’m just a crazy creative person, I really care about pricing, because I have a lot of nephews and nieces and I know how difficult it is for kids to be part of Givenchy or Nike or Chanel. I know how difficult it is and that they want to be and I think this is why there’s all this copy-cat stuff in the fashion business.
Of course the prices always exclude a lot of people.
Yeah so that’s part of the reason I’m doing this kind of project. Everyday I get requests to do projects but If I’m gonna do something it’s because I’m really excited about it.
Pick up your favorite pair of Nike x R.T. Air Force 1 “Beige” tomorrow, October 16, over at SOTOstore.com.