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Footwear designs for a changing world

BA Textile Design students develop concepts for the future of sustainability, presented to Nike at their World Head Quarters in Beaverton, Oregon, USA.

A mock-up of an advert for Nike trainers showing, on the left, a man in a street kicking toward the camera, and, on the right, a close-up. of a trainer. In the middle are the words
Maria Appleton, Work by Maria Appleton, BA Textile Design.
, Chelsea College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Maria Appleton

The brief

Nike, the world’s largest sportswear brand, worked with Chelsea BA Textile Design staff and students to develop designs which considered the environmental impacts of material choice, creatively responding to the changing shifts in global cultural values around sustainability.

The brief asked students to consider 4 key areas:

  • Energy consumption and CO2 emissions
  • Water usage
  • Harmful chemistry
  • Waste

Responses could include proposals for circular or ‘waste free’ design and should take into account both technical and performance attributes of material choices for sport performance, or lifestyle benefits while researching the consumer and social mindset of the public they aimed to address.

Focusing on what the future of sustainability looks like for footwear materials and the future consumer, students were asked to visually communicate and champion their concept with a focus on design thinking.

An illustrated panel as though in a comic strip showing a woman going for a run in Nike trainers.
Priscilla Luong, Work by Priscilla Luong, BA Textile Design.
, Chelsea College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Priscilla Luong

The project

After receiving the brief in October, the 11 students who took part in project presented their work to tutors and members of the Senior Materials Team from Nike world headquarters in December.

With a strong focus on scenario and storytelling, a wide range of mediums were utilised in the students’ responses, from animations and video to 3D printing and samples made from recycled materials.

“With this project you were working on a creative solution to a problem but have at the same time being involved with industry meant there was a good balance. Nobody could say if what we were doing was right or wrong, which I think that was good preparation for thinking creatively. You do this and then you leave for the industry, it’s perfect.” - Maria Appleton, BA Textile Design student.

A photograph of a blue prototype Nike trainer coneected to an iPhone with a USB cable, showing the Nike swoosh logo. The text reads
Anna Hutchence, Work by Anna Hutchence, BA Textile Design.
, Chelsea College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Anna Hutchence

The Outcome

3 finalists were picked to present their work to the team at Nike HQ in the USA.

Students Anna Hutchence, Priscilla Luong and Maria Appleton travelled to Beaverton, Oregon with Textile Design Programme Director Caryn Simonson and Associate Lecturer Nick Dunn for a rare opportunity to present their responses.

“In their own completely individual approaches to the brief the 3 finalists identified an authentic community of sports footwear consumers that they had a connection with. Around these communities they designed sustainable, innovative material solutions with a deep storytelling element. Their concepts and final outcomes had an edge steeped in reality; something which was echoed by the Nike community when they presented their projects at the exhibition at Nike WHQ.” - Nick Dunn, Associate Lecturer, BA Textile Design.