How fluffy handcuffs inspired Nike footwear
Innovation is hard.
Innovation is especially hard when you’re expected to do it year after year after year. But that’s when people call Brian Millar.
Brian is like the Godfather of innovation. When brands like Unilever, British Airways or Samsung are stuck, they call him. One day, he got a call from Nike.
Athletic shoe design is an innovation parade — every year every brand shows off their new sponge-light, aquaplaning, invisible winglets that will make you run faster that Usain Bolt, or something, so it takes a lot to stay in the lead, (metaphorically and literally).
So when Nike asked Brian’s team to help them design better workout footwear for women, they didn’t just speak to shoe designers.
They called in Russian ballet dancers who cut up their own shoes the minute they buy them. They spoke to Chris Kerr, who designs suits for the set of James Bond and Doctor Who, (you just try jumping off the roof of a train without your trousers tearing). They learnt about durable materials from fetish gear designers (think chains-and-whips-excite-me.com), because they routinely make leather look like lace.
Nike are some of the best shoe designers in the world, but Brian’s team managed to take them in directions they had never explored before by speaking to people on the extremes. The result wasn’t just something Nike had never done before, but something no shoe brand had ever done before.
What came out of all of these shenanigans was the Nike Wrap, and it has been wildly successful.
So what else can we do with this kind of thinking?