This DJ Designed What Could Be Nike's Most Political Air Max Yet: Exclusive

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Courtesy of Nike
Venus X collaboration with Nike

Thirty years ago, Nike dropped the Air Max 1, a now-classic that took both the sport and street worlds by storm. Three generations later, the team behind the innovative air bag have decided to reinvent the classic by taking a more global approach.

As part of the new “Vote Forward” campaign, 12 influencers from across the globe -- dubbed the RevolutionAirs -- were tapped to re-imagine their ideal Air Max for Air Max Day (March 26). From Korean textile designing duo Fabrikr to vegan vintage Los Angeles-based thrifter Sean Wotherspoon, each of the dozen designers are young, fresh revolutionaries in their respective fields. For New York City, Nike chose social influencer and DJ Venus X.

As the driving force behind famed warehouse party/record label GHE20G0TH1K, a globe-trotting DJ and owner of Harajuku-inspired vintage shop Planet X, Venus X’s very being is a unique brand of multi-generational appropriation and beautifully angry stylistic expression that perfectly sums up today’s urban, underground millennial. So it’s no surprise that her Air Max is a direct product of that.

“The inspiration behind this design is DEFCON [Defensive Readiness Condition] 1, which is the maximum level of readiness [for the United States Armed Forces],” Venus told Billboard. For those who don’t know, the DEFCON scale is a color and numerical metric to ascribe the level of alertness all U.S forces should be at any given time. DEFCON 5 (blue) is “normal peacetime readiness,” DEFCON 3 (yellow) is when the U.S. Air Force should be ready to mobilize within 15 minutes (where America was directly after 9/11 and where we’ve more or less stayed since), and DEFCON 1 (white) is when all U.S forces should be ready for combat because nuclear war is imminent.

“With Trump as president, and all he’s doing to put pressures on people, the country and the world, it was important for me to make something that was relative to what I think about every day,” Venus says. “You can’t ignore something just because it is not happening to you.”

And there is no ignoring this sneaker. A take on the Air Max 97, this shoe features a removable, neon yellow, over the knee, lace-up vinyl sock with “DEF CON ONE” printed in bold lettering along the outer shin. The sock zips into the shoe, which is sturdy rubber dip-dyed in a gradient of yellow to red, mimicking the DEFCON scale coloring. But the deeply political message wasn’t so much a concern of Nike’s as was the function of the shoe. “It’s always a fine line preserving the function of the air bag and the performance of the footwear is paramount. But if we can highlight air in an interesting execution that allows the wearer to experience the innovation, then we are always open to pushing the boundaries,” Dylan Raasch, Nike’s senior design director who worked directly with all 12 RevolutionAirs, says.

“[I feel like] we are at the end of yellow and the political climate is starting to become red,” Venus says. “That’s why the tip of my shoe is red. If we keep going into red, we will eventually end up in white. And white is the obliteration of the world.”

While a bold statement, Raasch says this is exactly why Nike chose the outspoken DJ. “We like to say that Air Max started a footwear revolution,” he says. “[Venus] carries that rebellious spirit in the way she approaches life. It is a nice match.”

Voting for Nike’s Vote Forward Campaign is now open. On March 26 (Air Max Day), the company will announce the winner, whose design will be produced as 2017’s newest Air Max. 


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