Last week, in sunny Los Angeles, skateboarder Eric Koston finally launched his first and much anticipated signature shoe for Nike. But, as is common in the hype-friendly sneaker trade, the sportswear brand and Koston had also cooked up a limited edition version that set all trainer blogs alight with excitement. Due to Koston's long standing awe of five-time world NBA champion Kobe Bryant and Nike's already established friendship with the basketball legend, the choice was easy. The collaboration got a go ahead and 24 pairs were produced (selling out in an hour at Nike's L.A. Vault), using Bryant's plush upper design and Koston's bottom Lunarlon sole technology.
The initial Nike hook-up with skater Eric Koston was no doubt a matter of 'when', and not 'if'. Having been a professional skateboarder for almost 20 years, Koston have exactly the kind of knowledge and expertise Nike need. The skate shoe silhouette hasn't changed much since the 80s for a reason, and instead the famous skater and the Nike design team set out to take the shoe apart and put it together using the 'best of the rest' in terms of its inner workings. Inspired by the Zoom FP, Dunks and other Nike models admired by Koston, the new creation was assembled with the Lo Ride cupsole from a running shoe, a seamless lining and a shoe bed designed to withstand the impact of skateboarding.
The L.A. event, and the research leading up the signature shoe, was the result of Nike's ambition to constantly improve and develop ground breaking athlete-friendly technology, and they had the common sense to lure over Koston from another shoe brand two years ago, aiming to once and for all create the perfect skate shoe. And when looking at the shoe - and trying it on, of course - it seems that the combination have struck a chord with skaters and 'civilians' alike. The structure, fit, grip and cushioning effect is all in place to make the skater become one with the board. According to Kobe Bryant, it's even good enough to play basketball in, and who are we to argue with him...
Dazed Digital: What, do you reckon, is the most unique detail about the trainer?
Eric Koston: The Lunar sole, no doubt! We took away the border underneath the out sole to get a closer feel but the Lunar sole also gives impact protection which is important when skating. The trainer maintains its flexibility...
DD: How do you mean?
Eric Koston: The shoe's cushioning system and technology is taken from a running shoe and then applied to a skate shoe. We used nubuck suede on the upper half - it's a traditional fabric and the way it reacts to the skateboard is great for sliding and controlling the board.
DD: What's your favourite colour combination of what's on offer?
Eric Koston: Probably the red and pistachio one, but I do like the gold as well - I like seeing bright shoes. Lots of skaters wear black but I get tired of looking at black...
DD: How come it's taken you two years to come up with your first Nike signature shoe?
Eric Koston: We started talking about how to improve the skate shoe straight away and after a year or so they said 'remember all those things you said you wanted to change, let's fix them' and we got to work. It was about working with an iconic shoe and make it more skateable, evolving the existing pieces into my signature shoe.
DD: How long did the whole process take?
Eric Koston: About 15 months!
DD: What is it with Nike that you like... it isn't like your average skate label... !
Eric Koston: Nike SB is run like a skateboard company within in the massive Nike corporation... they all skate themselves, they're under staffed like any other skate company.. it's the same mindset!
DD: Do they have much in common: skate, basketball and running?
Eric Koston: Yeah, and also golf and soccer... those guys are always running and moving latterly. Same kind of movement as in basketball. When Kobe made low basketball shoes that's exactly what he was looking for; a slimmer, lower and more streamlined shoe... and I wanted the same concept for the skate shoe.
DD: What's next for you? Any contests or so?
Eric Koston: I'm gonna have a busy summer - my wife is due to have our second baby in a week or so! There's always contests around but competing isn't what defines a skater. A 60 second run isn't what it's all about...
DD: What would you say is more important then?
Eric Koston: I didn't get to where I am because of competitions... it's more about the video component. It's a huge promotional tool, they're often a five to six minute segment of the last three or four years in someones life all edited into a Greatest Hits film. That's what I watched when I was younger and that, plus magazines, is what drives us... Now there's the Internet as well, of course!
DD: What was it like working with Kobe Bryant?
Eric Koston: Great, it's funny we're quite similar but in very different worlds, have had similar experiences and have created our signature shoes with other brands before Nike. We're both from southern California - well, I'm from here and he has lives here for a long long time...
Another limited 1,000 pair Nike SB Eric Koston Premium with an embossed suede upper with snake skin pattern will be available at Nike SB dealers worldwide on July 1, 2011. The inline shoes will be available at Nike SB retailers from June 4, 2011