Linus Nutland supposes that his knack for collecting comes from his father, who over the years has amassed vinyl and band t-shirts. Nutland veered in a different direction when as a first-year university student he started to collect and sell Nike sneakers online. What started as a niche hobby that saw Nutland scouring for “kind of weird and obscure” Nike sneakers anywhere from charity shops to car boot sales, soon blossomed into Nike Server, an Instagram platform with a following of 15,000. Now, thanks to a partnership with Vibram’s Repair if you Care initiative, Nutland and his online shop are encouraging everyone to think a little differently about their old sneakers.
Nike Server rode the recent wave of popularity that’s subsumed the world of resale. As consumers, particularly younger ones, seek out more eco-conscious ways to shop, online forums with an eye for used, repurposed, or upcycled goods have swum to the top. Nutland credits a lot of the project’s success to this sea change among younger shoppers but is also quick to note that his more open approach when it comes to sourcing and collecting sneakers has helped to differentiate him from similar-minded platforms.
“I'm not massively picky on what stuff I get in. As long as it's something that I'm interested in and I think is cool, I'll get it, whereas I feel like some people really channel their shops into one look and one kind of stream of products. I don't really do that. I have the ACGs, I have the Terras, but I'll also sell Huarache and Air Max 90s and Footscapes, and also weird running shoes,” he says.
One inevitable hurdle that anyone in the world of sneaker resale will ultimately face is one of degradation. Sneakers, especially the soles, with their mix of materials are easily susceptible to a variety of issues, be it crumbling, separating, or bubbling. “In the early days of Nike Server, it was losing me a lot of money,” Nutland remembers. “I was being a bit naive, selling shoes, they were breaking, people were sending them back. I had to refund them and then I was left with a product that was not sellable.”
He began to research solutions—ways to continue selling the sneakers he and his audience loved without sacrificing quality or wearability. Enter Vibram and its Repair if You Care initiative, a campaign that encourages people to send in their well-worn and well-loved sneakers for a sole refurbish. Nutland first discovered the Vibram Academy in London when he took 20 worn-out shoes to their workshop. A few weeks later, he had 20 re-soled shoes that maintained the look and feel of the previous pairs but were now completely wearable.
The process is simple: Vibram retains the integrity and look of the sneaker’s upper, but outfits it with a state-of-the-art sole that prolongs the sneaker’s life while also giving it a fresh, completely new look. Every shoe that emerges from the Vibram workshop is a one-of-a-kind piece.
Thus began Nutland and Vibram’s partnership. As companies become hip to the increased desire of consumers for used and upcycled products, it only makes sense that a collaboration such as this one would come about. Nutland took home the newly soled sneakers, shot an editorial and uploaded them to his Instagram page. “I was expecting some kind of skepticism from purists and proper sneaker collectors who would see this as ruining a classic, but I actually didn't get any of that. It was such a well-received project,” says Nutland.
The marriage of well-loved silhouettes with high-quality soles is something he’s been able to push as another positive of the project: “It’s taking an Air Max One, but using Vibram's high tech hiking shoe. So it's kind of transforming some Nike trainers into actually more performance-based footwear, which is also quite cool. We’re completely changing the use of the shoe, not only changing how it looks, but how it performs as well.”
Nutland works with the team at the Vibram studio to mix and match every upper with the optimal sole design. Recently, he traveled to Milan to lead a workshop in partnership with Vibram where they invited sneaker owners to bring their worn-out shoes for a consultation and re-soling at the brand’s headquarters. “People were bringing shoes that their parents had run marathons in and people were also bringing shoes that were new but they didn't like because they didn't like the sole unit. People could come and just essentially customize their shoes with a new sole in order to wear them more.” By the end of the workshop, they’d resoled more than 100 pairs of shoes.
Following the success of the project, Vibram is in talks to expand the initiative to other cities across Europe. While the logistics of a project like this one are starting to come together, Nutland points to a larger mentality shift that he hopes to bring about: “I was really trying to highlight the importance and the possibilities of using a service that Vibram provides. I think doing so has made people realize the possibilities of re-soling and saving your shoes.”