Nike’s Next Era Is All About Her

Nike is making its biggest investment in women yet. “We believe women and girls aren’t just the future of sport – they’re on the leading edge of change,” the sportswear juggernaut relayed in a press release. After creating Nike’s National Team Collection in partnership with the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the brand hopes to keep the ball rolling into the new year. Alongside the release of 13 team collections, Nike showcased its Nike Pro Short’s Leak Protection: Period as a showcase of its commitment to women-oriented innovation. Specially designed with a supportive seven-inch inseam, in addition to an invisible built-in brief with an ultrathin, absorbent liner that creates a two layer anti-leak feature, they’re for stress free wear. 

Although Nike does have a history in female-focused collaborations – namely its 2023 Sacai and Feng Chen Wang partnerships – it’s pledging to delve deeper into its support of women. The brand also tapped female input at the forefront of football collaboration with the likes of Nike newcomers Martine Rose and Ambush in 2023. Rose, alongside fashion editor Tamara Rothstein and photographer Pascal Gambarte, rounded up nine female footballers from across Europe to spotlight the future of the game because, as we all know, the future is female. Yoon Ahn, creative director for Ambush, showcased football under a stylised light, down playing the sport’s usual masculine tendencies, and bringing a unique interpretation of femme energy to the collaboration. For the viewers sake, the Premier League should perhaps require the usage of Nike x Ambush’s metallic silver football – we’ll keep on dreaming.

Icons such as footballer Megan Rapinoe, tennis superstars Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have paved the way for recent female athlete collaborations, such as the release of Sabrina Ionescu Signature Unisex Basketball shoe collection last year. Also, in collaboration with dancer Parris Goebel, Nike hosted “Goddess Awakened” at Paris Couture Week 2023, a 40-minute performance with more than 30 partners and led by Goebel. This was done to accompany Nike’s release of the new Playfully Pink Dunk Low trainers. 

With the creation of Nike’s ‘Well Collective’ foundation in the summer of 2023, the company has pledged to address five pivotal pillars in support of holistic fitness for women. Movement pillar aims to inspire knowledge on moving your body with traditional sports, as well as alternative activities such as dance, yoga, walking and stretching. The mindful pillar promotes methods such as mediation, visualisation, breathing work, and self-talk to support a balanced lifestyle, which bleeds into their nutrition pillar that aims to offer expert advice on how you can best fuel your movement. The rest pillar provides actionable ways to maximise your sleep and recovery. Finally, Nike’s connection pillar aims to present opportunities for the community, both online and in person, for all individuals alike. This research was developed within the Nike Sport Research Lab, which is expanding its worldwide network of trainers, coaches, researchers and fitness experts by specifically bringing in Deepak Chopra, MD, founder of The Chopra foundation/ Chopra Global who champions examining the effects of mind-body practices on health and wellbeing. 

“Our ambition is to be the biggest champion for all women and girls, making them feel seen and included. And whether it’s celebrating all forms of movement or taking action to create bigger change, our commitment is to prove it with innovative, style-led products that deliver meaningful benefits; experiences that go beyond traditional forms of sport and encompass holistic fitness; and significant progress across our purpose-led goals for people, planet and play,” Nike relays.

Here, we sat down with Nike to talk about the brand’s paradigm shift targeted towards female bodies and voices within the world of sports.

Can you talk to us through the Nike women journey please and some of the moments and activations in 2023? 

Nike: “2023 marked our biggest investment yet as we ushered in the next era of Nike Women. One where Nike is their biggest champion, supporting their creativity and self-expression at the intersection of style, culture, sport, movement, and wellness. From introducing new innovations like our Nike Leak Protection: Period Short, to launching Sabrina Ionescu’s first signature basketball shoe, to hosting “Goddess Awakened” with Parris Goebel at Paris Couture Week, to partnering with Yoon Ahn and Martine Rose on new expressions for women’s football.”

Why is a slew of collabs the best, most effective way for the brand to usher in a new era for women?

Nike: Our portfolio of athletes and catalysts prove that the power of the collective is unstoppable. Collaboration is part of Nike’s DNA, and it was a key lever to explore new frontiers and expressions of sport, style, and culture within this past year. In sport, we teamed up to redefine what it means to be a signature athlete and further enabled them to take full advantage of our inspirational toolbox, from design to materials to research. More and more, we’re shifting from sponsorship to partnership. We hope in time, this creates a bigger groundswell across the industry.”

How is Nike assuring that women’s voices are heard and taken into account with each initiative?

Nike: All innovation at Nike starts and ends with the voice of the athlete. Both directly and through data and science – this isn’t just about professional athletes but everyday athletes too. In 2023, we marked our most meaningful investment into women’s research yet and we continue using these insights to address problems within all women’s needs, activities, and intensities. We leverage the insights we receive through our Athlete Think Tank, our partnership with the world’s best athletes to shape a more equitable future of sport for women and girls. We are committed to serving every woman holistically.”

Following the ‘Goddess Awakened’ show that took place as part of Paris couture, what can you tell us about Parris Goebel’s Dunk Low Quickstrike collab?

Nike:We were proud to introduce the Nike Dunk Low Parris Goebel Quick Strike this year; our first shoe with Nike partner, choreographer, dancer, artist, and athlete Parris Goebel. Debuted during our ‘Goddess Awakened’ dance performance during the Paris Couture Fashion Week. It was inspired by the creative force and powerful style of Parris Goeble and the dance community, the shoe sports a pink and turquoise colourway, balanced with a metallic-patent and leather details. The Parris Goebel’s Nike Dunk Low includes a dance-inspired Nike Swoosh logo on the tongue, jewel-like dubraes on the laces, and has “5678” inscribed on the tag to signal the count of a dance routine.”

The brand-new kit for the Lionesses team is mapped to women-specific movements and incorporates innovations like leak proof shorts, etc. It’d be great to know some more about the technology used to make this happen and your thoughts on why it’s taken so long for sportswear giants to create something of its kind.

Nike: “We have been obsessing over all her needs, with our teams of women’s specific researchers, scientists and designers knowing more about the female body than ever before. This extensive research allows us to create products that address multiple needs as well as remove barriers to movement and sport. Periods for example, are a barrier to sport and movement for teens and adults – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Just ahead of this summer’s tournament, we launched the Nike One Leak Protection: Period short. A short that features an ultrathin, absorbent liner that helps protect against period leaks, providing extra comfort and allowing women to do the sport they love with peace of mind. We sell these for consumers to purchase and offered them to our partnered Nike Women football teams as a part of our national kit collection. Our 2023 National Team kits are designed to fit the needs of today’s powerful female footballers, debuting with a new fit and material innovation mapped to a woman’s specific movements. We utilised the latest advanced body-mapping-technology, 4D data and state-of-the-art digital design tools to tune the material pixel by pixel, providing reinforcement, mobility, breathability and venting exactly where it’s needed most. The Nike One Leak Protection: Period Short can be worn under her kit when she needs it, giving her extra confidence when needed.”

How do you wish the conversation around women in sports/active spaces would change?

Nike: “We believe women and girls aren’t just the future of sport – they’re on the leading edge of change, redefining what sport is and the opportunity it represents to serve a new generation both on and off the pitch. We are designing for everybody – every shape, size, and age. From marathons to meditation to running around after your kids – meeting everyone where they are. Our goal is to create products that make moving easier and fit beautifully for all bodies.” 

What’s next for Nike Women?

Nike: At Nike we always say that if you have a body, you are an athlete. We are continuing to obsess women’s needs with meaningful innovation, design and experiences and are expanding our team of trusted network trainers, coaches, and experts all over the world to deliver to scale our five pillars of holistic fitness for everyone and we can’t wait to share more of what’s to come soon!”

Photography courtesy of Nike.

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