NIKE REFRESH | BRINGING THE FUN BACK TO HOOPS Words by Nick DePaula Photography by Steve Mullholand (Originally published in Sole Collector's Issue 28 -- Available Here) For the past few years, a few close friends and I have continually talked about the forgotten concept of a GR we were actually excited about. We were looking for a shoe that we could walk into our local mall-based store on any day of the week and grab at retail, and a shoe that we'd want to rock right away the next day at school or out to lunch. It's seemed as though anything of note the past few years has had to be a PE, quickstrike or sample to even get anyone's attention, and while shoes like the � Cent, Eggplant Foamposite and Air Yeezy have certainly (arguably) brightened up 2009 thus far, we're all itching for some more general release heat. Over in Nike's Jerry Rice building, the Nike Basketball division is hoping they have just what we're all clamoring for, as their promising Refresh series is dropping several new, fun remixes of past hoops classics. With a decline in the basketball market over the past few years as the vulcanized frenzy kicked into full swing, Nike Basketball decided as a group to take a new direction with their models dropping around the spring and summer timeline. After initially launching last year with the Air Sharkley, the concept was pretty straightforward, as they set out to fuse together classic models of the past with new, updated technology and a unique look that didn't come across as being too literal, as sometimes those other fusions may appear to be. "The concept started to come into fruition in early 2007," begins Charles Williams, Nike Basketball Product Line Manager. "We saw where the market was, and even with our main consumer that's 13 to 18, they were gravitating towards the iconic, historic models that Nike had put out, and what we wanted to do was put something out in a new and fresh way without exactly mimicking what's been done, but definitely coming back and adding on to some classics." By remixing together past classics in interpretive ways rather than just piecing together exact pattern pieces, the crew within Nike Basketball has kicked off a series that people can look forward to every spring, and they're also aiming to offer the shoes at a far lower price point than the $125-and-up tier that most of the original classics clocked in at. This May, Nike Basketball's two key models from Refresh will be the Zoom Fun Police and Zoom Flight Club, and as always within the corporate structure of the product timeline, a footwear product director aligns groups of three to a project each season - a designer is chosen to style the shoe along with a key person from both the development and marketing divisions to help guide the process. Hardly a stranger to any of Nike Basketball's classic models, longtime sneakerhead Jason Petrie has taken on designing nearly all of the shoes that you'll be seeing out of the Refresh series, and in working hand-in-hand with Senior Developer Aaron Petrella and the aforementioned PLM Charles Williams, the team is feeling pretty strong about where they're headed in the line. "What's great about these projects is we work really well together as a triad," says Williams. "Jason is a tremendous designer and Aaron is an excellent developer, and we're a true triad in that I might not know something that I could speak to in development talk, but I can offer up a suggestion. Aaron as a developer offers up marketing or design suggestions. Some of these projects were born out of us really sitting down and taking these concepts to lunch and spending hours in our archives together." Having that synergy amongst each other is often the required recipe for success during revisions and the re-shaping of a model along the development stages, and you'll be seeing their hard work come to life through some incredibly refined and detailed sneakers this spring. Since re-introducing exact retros of past models falls into the Nike Sportswear and Global Urban groups' to-do lists, the trio of Williams, Petrie and Petrella are getting after tying into their most historical models from over a decade ago through the performance-based Refresh program. "If you take today's 16-year-old kid, we have some great shoes that they may have no knowledge of, and they might see it here or there, but they don't have the emotional ties that the past generation does, so we want to offer up some of those styles as a newer opportunity," explains Williams. While everyone's favorite models of the '90s may have retailed around the $150 mark, we'll be seeing comparable tech, materials and aesthetics more around the $80 to $100 range, as the group understands everyone's buying patterns have changed a bit over the years. "We know kids are buying iPods and phones and other stuff, and $160 for a pair of shoes is a lot of money, so this whole program started out with us trying to hit that sweet spot of around $80 and really bring that heat," says Petrie. "With the Sharkley, we planned the shoe for the summertime, and you might be playing summer ball or just pick-up with your friends, but it was more of an outdoor, summer fun shoe. We started out with the Sharkley, and as we get to the Flight Club, Fun Police and Alpholution, you can really see the lines start to become more refined and the shape really take form." For now, lets dive on into the Zoom Flight Club.... Zoom Flight Club | Enter The Flight Universe When the team of three set out to tackle what would become the Zoom Flight Club, right away there were several directions that they could've taken the project in, as Nike's Flight series has featured arguably more classic silhouettes than either of the other two silos in Force and Uptempo. As the basis of Refresh includes meshing together three models to make one, the group had a harder task than you might imagine in picking just three shoes to draft off of. The first logical starting point was taking things back to the beginning of Flight, all the way back to 1989. "We looked at the base of the Flight '89, which was the first branded Flight shoe and is a special shoe to me and to many others, and it was a shoe that shared the tooling with the Jordan IV and helped jumpstart a generation," begins Petrie. "With the Flight '89, you've got this really iconic midsole wrap that's really good for keeping the foot on the footbed and also is quite durable for the summer game, so I thought that worked quite well. But the Flight '89 was also rather bulky, so we wanted to really sleeken it up for today." In order to bring more shape and sexiness into the silhouette of the shoe through inspiration from two other models, the team spent a day together in the archives looking through old models and styles from the Flight lineage of basketball, and from there they had found exactly where they were going to take the project, as the Zoom Glove's classic zipper shroud could tighten up the upper a bit, and the minimalistic body of the Hyperflight could serve as a starting point for ridding the shoe of the added bulk that the Flight '89 carried with it. "It's real fun putting 'em together," smiles Petrie. "We just locked ourselves in the archive one day, and we came out of there wondering how we could take something as robust as the Flight '89 outsole and sleeken it up, how we could make the Zoom Glove shroud work, and how we could add in the light weight of the Hyperflight. When we came out of there, without even a sketch or drawing or anything, I think we knew and could see just what this shoe was going to be about." With a starting place locked in, from there the design process began, and rather than worry about where the shoe would exactly fit or how it would be received by retail buyers, the team relied on Charles Williams' simple motto for Refresh: Have fun. "For the three of us, we all grew up with all of these classics, we all have big collections, and it's been great for us to go back and work on bringing back some of those classic shoes," says Petrie. "I know for us, there was some resistance at first to go back and touch on the Zoom Glove, because we all have different memories of stuff, and would a kid now want a shoe that zips up? Charles let me have the freedom to have some fun, and Aaron had the patience to let me work this shoe out, and it's turned out into something that we think a kid will really be into." The most noticeable aspect of the shoe is certainly its shroud that envelopes nearly the entirety of the upper, and as the Zoom Glove was known for its black neoprene upper, the Zoom Flight Club features a perforated synthetic that should offer both more durability and breathability. To take things even further in terms of lockdown, there's also a strap that runs along the top of the collar, adding in some assurance for the shroud. Rather than use a standard zipper as seen a decade ago, the shoe also carries over the more streamlined, bonded seams that we often see in Nike's higher end Tech Pack jackets, a nice touch of added smoothness. With the Flight '89 making up the inspiration for the tooling and the Zoom Glove carrying over its upper aesthetics, the Hyperflight can most clearly be seen along the collar, as its shapely design stands out along the heel. Above: Jason Petrie, Nike Basketball Senior Designer Though the upper of the shoe carries with it a defined and contoured aesthetic that looks quite modern for having been inspired by models from 1989, 1998 and 2001, there's still a whole laundry list of details that Petrie was able to slyly slide into the shoe. You'll find past Flight logos underneath the shroud along the tongue, and most of those details can be found along the outsole too. "The stars on the toe of the Flight '89 were a really key traction feature, but we reinterpreted them and took the new Flight logo and built this even more grippy pattern," Petrie reveals. "We also took the Hyperflight's wide herringbone pattern in one of the more noticeable sections of the outsole. It's super light, and if you use it in zones, it's a way to reduce weight without losing your traction." While the entire outsole may seem a bit busy at first glance, the way in which the multidirectional and segmented pattern from the Flight '89 is re-interpreted into the Zoom Flight Club makes for quite a visual treat. At the heel, Petrie added even more nods to the history of Flight, as he tied all of the line's previous logos together. "Nike used to always have a heel design that had a center of pressure appearance, and this is almost like a Flight Universe at the heel, where you can see all of our past Flight logos revolving around this center of pressure universe design. Also, along the outrigger, there're eight and nine lines to tie back to the Flight '89 as well." The touches back to the shoe's inspiring models don't end there, though, as along the medial midsole you'll even find the dates of 1989, 1998 and 2001 molded into the Phylon midsole in Roman numerals. Clocking in at $110, the Zoom Flight Club is the priciest sneaker yet in the Nike Refresh line, but the way in which it's constructed played a major factor in the pricing of it. With a 14 mm Zoom Air unit in the heel, the shoe unfortunately doesn't feature any forefoot cushioning of note, but the team did try and engineer a sculpted Phylon footbed for some extra response. "With the external shroud, we're basically building two shoes [which factors into the pricing of the shoe], and we've also had really good luck and feedback with our heel Zoom Air without having a unit in the forefoot," says Petrie. To make the most of the forefoot cushioning that would be included in the shoe, the team worked to design flex grooves and zones into the midsole that could improve transition and overall feel. "The reason you'll see that break point right underneath the met head is because that allows the foam to work a bit more independently and flex better to provide a better ride and feel. You won't get that slappy feel that you do in some other shoes," explains Petrie. Above: Concept sketchwork by Jason Petrie. To Petrie's credit, the Zoom Flight Club shaped up to become a shoe that could entirely stand on its own were it actually released towards the end of the 1990's, and by not borrowing from the Flight '89, Zoom Glove and Hyperflight too strongly, he did the shoes justice while still creating a uniquely styled sneaker. Though the shoe dropped in a handful of colorways, it's the Black/ White/Citron that Petrie gravitates towards most. "That was my first concept for the shoe and in my first sketches, and I don't know how we made it out the door with that color, but I love it so much and I love the block on it," he says. While it might be considered a little too wild and brash by some, the Citron colorway plays perfectly to the spirit of the classic Flight era and the fun that Williams instills in the group. Without getting too overly excited and complimentary, the Zoom Flight Club has ended up being one of the first shoes in years that I've been giddy about upon release. I'd say it's my favorite GR since the Zoom LeBron II, as it pays homage to the flowing design language that Eric Avar became so renowned for a decade ago, and it also thankfully is dropping in some more daringly hot colorways than Nike Basketball has tried over the past few years. For Jason Petrie, the project was as exciting as could be because he was able to work on fusing together some of his favorite models from Nike Basketball, and for a guy who has long gone by the moniker of "Alphaproject" online, it's an even more awesome opportunity to be able to highlight the Zoom Flight Club as the latest installment of the series by placing those familiar five dots along the shoe. "Alpha Project is a very relevant concept for kids even today, and imagination meets technology is a pretty powerful thing," he states. With Petrie at the helm and Nike's Refresh program just getting off the ground, you'll be seeing a combination of those principles for many seasons to come. Check out the Sole Collector edition of the Zoom Flight Club below, and check HERE for more images.