In an abandoned tube station deep beneath London, the sportswear icons present their new and improved ACG collection – inspired by the super-fast pace of city life
Nike have taken a crowd of people to the abandoned Aldwych station in the heart of London, provided them with torches and lured them into the sunken depths to be some of the first in the world to see the new NikeLab ACG (that’s All Conditions Gear) collection, a revamp of the original outdoorsy line launched in 1989. A select few pieces – a backpack based on a military design which can be stripped down completely flat; a waterproof 2-in-1 jacket that can be zipped down to just its lining; and trousers in thermal tech-fleece with a three layer “sandwich” fabrication – are exhibited on blocks of ice in the cavernous summit of the station where a Tomb Raider level was staged, and The Prodigy’s iconic “Firestarter” music video was filmed. The entire venue is blacked-out, but for red light runway strips and projections of the triangular ACG logo.
When it came to designing the line, Errolson Hugh (co-founder of design agency Acronym, and drafted in to update ACG) and the Nike design team didn’t have a mood board. Beyond Nike’s expansive history and seemingly limetless archive, they had no references – no reference books or inspirational iconography, no music in the office, in fact no office at all, per say: “This project was conceived wherever we were – it was done in hotels, it was done in airports… toilets!” says Hugh.
Instead, the inspiration was far more abstract – “The reference was life in the city. Life in Tokyo, New York, London. The man living in the city was the inspiration,” says Hugh. Matthew Millward, Nike Sportswear Senior Design Director, adds, “We looked at the city dweller’s life, what does he do? What do you need when you’re going around, when you’re working, how do you travel around? By bike? By subway?” It was through these musings that the idea of the city athlete was born: the man for whom the collection is designed – “Everyone in the city is a city athlete,” explains Hugh. “We combat many things in our daily lives.”
They spent two months working on the engineering, making 15 prototypes for each piece – at least. There were no sketches. Hugh and Millward didn’t provide Nike with a single drawing during the two month design process. Instead they presented actual 3D prototypes, with Hugh swathed in fabric swatches so they saw exactly what he was creating. “We built promos, we tried things on,” says Hugh “but no sketches until it worked, until we found the winning designs.” It all seems very modern. “Modern is what we strive for,” Hugh says, beaming. “With such a rich history and such a huge archive it would be easy to look back, be retro. But we are never looking back. We look forward. The city athlete looks ahead: Forwards, forwards, forwards.”