Don’t call it a comeback! NikeLab ACG for city survivalism

Nike’s mandate to define sport utility within the city environment was set in motion by the company’s CEO Mark Parker, and the resulting collaboration has brought together specialists to look at mobility within the city environment – including Errolson Hugh, founder of Acronym, and Matthew Millward, Senior Design Director of Nike Sportswear. 032c was invited to the Global launch of the latest capsule collection in London for an exclusive insight into the on-going conversation.

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ACG (All Conditions Gear) was officially launched back in 1989, but its roots stretch way back to 1978. Traditionally, ACG has been synonymous with hiking and high-octane outdoor activities. The color palette’s purples and burnt oranges that have run throughout ACG lines were visually reminiscent of climbing rope, giving an impression of strength and durability. Having always sought to break from the limits of the outdoor genre, early archive pieces such as the 1989 Nike Snowpatch Spire Pullover employed a more electric colour palette, emblematic of what would later be the nineties zeitgeist, breaking from the brown and black conventions of outdoor clothing.

But survival in the cityscape creates new equations and problems to be solved: intemperate climates, moving spaces, objects, and obstructions. From a design perspective, activity-based pieces face problems with terrain and climate. When entering an urban domain, you are no longer dealing with a single activity. Real-time design confrontations vary—rom riding your bike in the rain, to then ducking into a busy and intimate metro station for shelter. Environments change drastically. With more dynamic social and physical settings, designing sport utility items for an urban terrain becomes a question of how to seamlessly transition between a litany of conditions. Communication becomes intrinsic, with Hugh describing this as the “code in context of what you are wearing.”

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The ‘All Conditions State’ was prefigured as the ultimate mental state. “It is a state of perpetual readiness,” says Hugh. “Athletes often discuss about ‘being in the Zone.’ In the playing field, they are in a flowing state, everything is moving. This is the type of mind-set we thought ideally would be amazing, and we instil this in the collection.” Obtaining knowledge from the athlete, Millward and Hugh noticed there was a kind of universal stance that appeared in a range of sports. The ready or neutral stance is basically the precursor to all other types of movement. As Hugh demonstrates, “your knees, ankles, and elbows are bent. You’re slightly crouched maintaining a low gravity, ready to explode.”

“It’s a biomechanical truth: to extend, you first have to contract,” explains Hugh, so encoding this stance into the pieces, to suggest this mindset when wearing the clothes, meant engineering a raw fit block. The fit block is like a car chassis. Testing multiple mechanics to get a silhouette that had no restrictions in terms of movement and shape produced numerous results. For the new ACG Tech Fleece Pant, they spent around two months solely working on the engineering, with over 15 prototypes. Millward, describing the response from athletes said, “It’s almost like getting ready for battle – like putting on a suit of armour.

The capsule exhibits key elevated pieces presented by NikeLab– the ACG 2-in-1 Jacket, the ACG Tech Fleece Pant, the ACG Flyknit Trainer Chukka SFB, the ACG Lunarterra Arktos boots, and the ACG Responder backpack. Anonymity also plays its part—a principle extracted from archive pieces such as the 1991 Nike Air Mowabb shoe, and its ‘leave no trace’ outsole for virtually no footprint. Like that of the urban flâneur – a person completely immersed in the crowd – the collection best represents the intricacies of the present with its simultaneously stealth and reflective abilities.

Nike_ACG_2_in_1_Jacket_2_originalThe NikeLab ACG 2 in 1 Jacket is sculpted to fit, with a three-layer Gore-Tex shell. With narrow cuffs that expand further up the arm and varying shapes of cut – smaller at the front, wider at the back – the volume extension reinforces its ‘ready state.’ Ergonomic detailing, such as different levels of pockets and darting systems under the arm allow for a full range of movement. Visually, it completely sheds its ACG heritage, but retains every inch of its utilitarian ethos.

With two versions of the jacket designed, Millward notes how people often gravitate towards the more toned-down, unbranded jacket. The question then arose as to how to keep the existing ACG mentality – its audacity – but bring it up to date? With a fully reflective exploding Helvetica graphic, removing it from its triangular framework and its off-centred swoosh, it’s a more aggressive form fit for dynamic climates.

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Using existing Nike fabric technology, the Nike ACG Tech Fleece Pant is a three-layer fabrication of cotton-on-cotton, with a polyester spacer yarn between, deploying the lightweight warmth innovation platform at Nike. There are no superfluous details, everything is the body of its parts—seams are cut around the leg, and pocketing systems are subtly hidden. Without hurting the overall silhouette, it maximizes non-restrictive movement, so much so that when taking it into Mark’s office, Hugh demonstrated his very own martial arts high kick.

Military and medic-packs are the epitome of function and survival. Adaptation is a means of survival and based on the Nike SFS Responder Backpack, the new NikeLab ACG Responder Backpack is an instinctive redevelopment of the design. In dimension-poly fabric that is extremely tough and lightweight, each quadrant of the bag can be split apart or folded flat, depending on your environment. Much the same can be said about the ACG Lunarterra Arktos boots. Adapted from a model previously seen at the Sochi Olympics, it has again been revised with more aggression. The ACG Flyknit Trainer Chukka SFB subverts the expectations of what protective footwear is, with hidden defender waterproof coating and a non-slip sole. Both shoes have an integrated system of Flywires that mould and weld around your foot as you move around the city.

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Always coming from a performance point of view without compromising, the design conversation and collaboration will continue throughout the year, as NikeLab ACG develops more lines and charts yet unknown environmental challenges.

The NikeLab ACG collection is available beginning Dec. 18 at nike.com/nikelab in North America, Western Europe and Japan. It will also be available at the following retail locations: NikeLab 21 Mercer NYC, NikeLab DSM NYC, Niketown New York, NikeLab 1948 LDN, NikeLab DSM LDN, NikeLab P75 Paris, NikeLab LNZ1 Milan and NikeLab DSM Ginza in Tokyo.

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