Sneakers
From the ground up
Nike Air Max 1 Ultra

In early August, Nike will be ushering in a follow-up to the Air Max 97 OG, arriving as the all-new Air Max 97 Ultra.

Dylan Raasch is a Senior Design Director for Footwear and Sportswear at Nike, and was intimately involved in the process of updating the 97 for 2017, 20 years after its original release. A graduate of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Raasch joined Nike in 2009, and has since worked within the brand’s running and basketball divisions, also helping to realize projects like the ubiquitous Nike Roshe. Spring-boarding from his later involvement in creating an Ultra version of the Huarache, Raasch was then tasked with the Air Max 97 Ultra, a new version that features a one-piece jacquard upper and new lightweight design.

The new Air Max 97 Ultra will also be accompanied by a range of new color options of the classic Air Max 97 OG. Check out our exclusive conversation with Raasch below.

So what do we need to know about the Air Max 97 Ultra? Why was the decision made to update the silhouette?

Nike Sportswear is led by the thought that the OGs are sacred, but as new innovations come to light, we have the technology to improve comfort, fit, and feel of different models. So the idea was to use new technology to update one of the most iconic Nike shoes – the 97. It’s a process we go through, when we ask “Is there a way to make it better?” Not necessarily for the OG consumer, but maybe for someone who wants that look, wants to be a part of it, and is probably looking for a more modern update.

For the Ultra, the idea was to use a one-piece jacquard upper to streamline the upper, but keep it breathable, lightweight, and using the details of the OG with a new modern aesthetic. The jacquard is different from Hyperfuse, which is a composite concept. We went through and adjusted some of the pressure in the air bag, cored out a bit of the foam, it’s small things like that. We tried to tastefully update the shoe.

Do you think fans of the OG will be buying the 97 Ultra?

You get a lot of people who are purists, and they don’t want us to touch the OG, but at the same time there’s a new generation that has no association with the original. There’s so much authenticity [to the Air Max 97], some people want us to keep it what it is. Some can kind of cross over.

Do you have a personal favorite from the upcoming release?

I’m still so much in the vein of the OG, classic colorways. I love the story of the bullet train, how it influenced the color. Even with the new version, that’s my favorite color, the jacquard silver.

Game of tones. #hskicks 📷: @lucky__luciano____

A post shared by HIGHSNOBIETY (@highsnobiety) on

For you personally as a designer, do you find yourself inspired by very tangible things like the bullet train for example, or more abstract things?

It can range, I’ve been inspired by things are very literal like the Roshe with the zen garden, as opposed to something more abstrasct, when it’s usually color-based. I base a lot of my design off insights or functional aspects of the shoe, so maybe more on the more literal side.

Since the 97 returned, we’ve seen it quickly become a statement sneaker on Instagram, why do you think that is?

I think the 97, for us, it’s almost like this piece of the future that is always a couple steps ahead of us. I think even today, it has this future vibe to it, it’s a little aspirational. I think there’s people that see it and it’s just so timeless in that aspect, it just adds a vibe to whatever outfit you’re wearing. It’s such a clean, modern, simple take on an object, the lines are so flowing, they seem to work perfectly with the shoe.

A while back we ran an opinion piece arguing that the 97 shouldn’t be reissued because it cheapens the nostalgic appeal. How would you counter that argument?

I’m not against reissuing the OG, I don’t think it’s good for the brand to have the model disappear completely, if you leave enough space and time, and it disappears, then it has no relevance to anybody in the future generation. I think it’s good to bring back OGs every so often, just to remind people of the story, to create a new basis for sentimental value. To take it away from people completely, I don’t think that would be good.

Outside of the 97, what are some of your favorite Air Max silhouettes of all time?

I wear the Air Max 1 a lot, I love the story. I like the 93 as well, because it was the first one with the bootie. Even the 180 would also be one of my favorites.

On the topic of Air Max Day, have you been working with Sean Wotherspoon on his Air Max hybrid?

Yeah, I’ve been part of that process with the RevolutionAir initiative from the beginning. I worked with all the designers, and Sean won through the vote, so I’ve been working with him on his model. It’s been great because he has so much passion, the dude is super energetic. It’s cool to see how he translated his passion for vintage Nike into this new model. The way he mixed it up, I thought it was pretty amazing to see how he obsesses with details, and tells stories through the shoe.

So he’s been making trips up to Beaverton? When will that shoe be released?

He’s been up here three times, every time he gets a little more excited. It’s all still in the works, we don’t have an exact date set yet, we’re still ironing out the details of the shoe. No firm dates yet.

New colorways of the Air Max 97 OG will hit retail and on Nike+ SNKRS on August 1. The Air Max 97 OG Premium will arrive at retail and on Nike+ SNKRS on August 4. The Air Max 97 Ultra will arrive at retail and on Nike+ SNKRS on August 5 in North America and the rest of the world on August 17.

Related Shopping Tips

What To Read Next