In a month-long celebration of Air, Nike turned imagination into reality in Melbourne right through March.
Beginning with a stunning audio-visual treat from collaborators Ta- ku and Sam Price in a six-story vertical laneway, the party continued with an innovative digital workshop from Mini Swoosh and head of Pitch Studios Christie Morgan.
The month concluded with Melbourne: On Air, a day and night party on the iconic Curtin House rooftop. Young creatives attended Air-inspired workshops and discussion panels during the day. When the sun went down, Boiler Room’s Melbourne: On Air delivered a truly unique celebration overlooking the heart of Melbourne.
Ta-ku and Sam Price are creating a six-floor art installation celebrating Nike Air
Words: Mitch Parker
Photography: Sam Wong
Ever since 2014, Nike Air’s annual celebrations have grown exponentially. Each year Nike have used it as a platform for creativity, turning imagination into reality through explorations of the Air Max line. This year’s celebrations were no exception with Nike launching a takeover of Melbourne’s iconic Curtin House building dubbed “Air House”. One of the highlights of the takeover was a six-floor Air Max inspired art collaboration by Ta-ku and visual artist Sam Price.
“We created a staircase where you walked through an audiovisual journey of Nike Air. We took the design language of the different sneaker silhouettes and repurposed them in an interesting way that talks about evolution and mutation. We took all the textures and different design elements and warped them in to these other organisms,” Ta-ku explains.
A number of Nike Air silhouettes were honoured by the project, ranging from iconic OGs like the Air Max 93 ‘Dusty Cactus’ right through to the line’s newest addition the Air Max 270.
“It was very much an art installation. We took the shoes and deconstructed components and built them in to these living organisms that kind of pulse and mutate. They’re quite strange and weird, but enough for you to recognise where it began,” says Sam.
“They’re new creations, but you can still recognise them. I wanted people to be looking and think, ‘Oh that’s a cool animation,’ but then see elements like the bubble (Max Air unit) or the mesh and have it suddenly click. If we were too obvious or literal about it then it would have no purpose.”
From a design perspective, the Nike Air Max line provided an enormous starting point for the duo to work off. “It’s pretty much a dream project, getting to play with the themes and the design of the shoes,” Sam says. “We got to leap of off that history and experiment to make something quite abstract.”
Ta-ku continues, “It’s a dream project not just because we’re Nike fans but because the Nike Air is so iconic—not just in streetwear and fashion but also in music and visuals. How prominent the Air Max was in hip-hop across the world has always been there.”
The project was fitting for the Perth-based duo thanks to their mutual history in both music and visuals. After meeting on the Perth music scene, a decade ago, their careers went in separate directions before they would be brought back together in 2015 when Ta-ku tapped Sam to create his concert visuals.
“I studied film and television so music and visuals were always a part of the same thing to me. Then through meeting other musicians they wanted my visual skills and eventually it took over and has been the thing that works best for me. I think it helps having a background in music to be able to make visuals for musicians,” Sam explains. “I think it’s interesting with me and Sam that we both started off in music together, but over time mutated in to other creative spaces separately, and then found a way back together from doing that,” says Ta-ku.
After joining forces on a number of different projects the two have found their own rhythm to collaborating with each other in order to turn imagination into reality. According to Sam, “[Ta-ku] is really good at is creating a solid framework to work within. He can come up with really interesting ideas and concepts—stuff that’s really easy to jump and launch in to. And then I’ll take care of the more specific design elements.”
“I’m the emotional one,” laughs Ta-ku.
Alexandra Hackett & Christie Morgan on their Nike Air-inspired collaboration
Words: Jessica Wang
Photography: Sam Wong
Alexandra Hackett (aka Mini Swoosh) is known for sourcing textiles that aren’t traditionally associated with fashion, and extending their life by repurposing them into apparel.
“I look at properties of different textiles and apply them to different items of clothing so that their function can be transferred. Polyethylene, for instance, can be translated into outerwear products because it has the same water resistant properties that you would need. It’s about transferring function from different industries into the clothing industry.”
Nike selected “Mini Swoosh” as one of twelve RevolutionAirs to reimagine the Air Max’s future. Her sleek design paid homage to nine previous Air Max, and proposed using Tyvek (machine washable paper) to evoke a Nike receipt. An ardent lover of Nike’s iconic branding, Hackett included three Swooshes on the upper.
“Everyone said there were too many, but I think it was just more noticeable due to the contrast in colour. I definitely wouldn’t remove any, but I like Swooshes, obviously.”
Christie Morgan was freelancing in design, branding and art direction when she started Pitch Zine in 2011. A publication that showcased and connected emerging talent in art and fashion, Pitch’s following and influence grew rapidly, setting the standard for offbeat fashion editorial. After a hiatus, Morgan decided to re-launch Pitch as a creative studio in mid 2017.
"This year I’ve been more interested in integrating tech or innovative software into my projects."
“Initially, Pitch Studios focused on more traditional approaches to design, but this year I’ve been more interested in integrating tech or innovative software into my projects. So it’s been a great way to develop and evolve my practice.”
Soon after launching, Pitch Studios was commissioned by The Tate Britain as part of their “Cut and Colour” exhibition. To explore the politics of hair – how we cut, colour and change our hair based on societal values – Morgan and her team chose to reinterpret Eileen Agar’s Angel of Anarchy (1936-1940) through digital mediums.
“We created an animation which was projected at one of the Tate’s ‘Late at Tate’ events. It was a really nice juxtaposition of physical and digital. You had these physically constructed sculptures and then a representation of something in 3D.”
“We also did an interactive workshop that used those elements to make digital collages, which the audience were able to take home. It was a more explorative and interactive way of using our assets.”
Last week, Melbourne’s beloved Curtin House was transformed into Nike’s “Air House”, where patrons could experience Morgan and Hackett’s interpretation of the 270. It was a collaborative labor of love, bolstered by Morgan and Hackett’s natural rapport (they are childhood friends), and hindered by polarising time-zones.
“A lot of time and work went into this project, so we really want to emphasise the process behind the final result during the actual workshop. We think people always get more out of an experience knowing the context and process behind it all.”
The pair hail from two different disciplines – Morgan largely works within the digital and tech realm, whereas Hackett’s creations are tangible and ultimately made to be worn.
“To combine our talents, we had to dig deeper than the physicality of what we create,” says Hackett. “We looked closely at our concepts and how we approach design. I love deconstructing elements and then reconstructing them into something new, so we looked at a way of digitising that process to come full circle into a product that could be created.”
“And I’m really interested in internet culture, and taking the alternate reality from a computer to turn into a workshop, where you get to interact with something physically,” says Morgan.
Though they boast different fortes, Morgan and Hackett share a knack for seeing things in a different light than most, and turning this imagination into reality. The Air Max 270 served as the starting point for the workshop. They looked at how the sneaker took the air bubble, a marvellous piece of tech for performance shoes, to create the first ever lifestyle Air Max.
Aiming to recreate this seamless blend of tech and fashion, the duo deconstructed the 270 into individual elements that could be manipulated on an iPad app. Users reconstructed the assets into personalised prints that were then sent off to become t-shirts.
I’m really interested in internet culture, and taking the alternate reality from a computer to turn into a workshop, where you get to interact with something physically"
The space was filled with objects d’art Hackett made from repurposing Nike goods: armchairs upholstered in Nike socks; beanbags reconstructed from Nike gym sacks.
Morgan and Hackett led a panel discussion that covered their work processes, preparation for the workshop, as well as the role of women in male-dominant fields.
“I’m moving more towards tech, which is very male dominated," says Morgan. I’m saying ‘tech’, but this issue relates to any industry. I think women want to be equal and respected as industry leaders. We want to be equal, and there are steps that men have to take for this to happen. They need to be supporting us more."
“Up until I began working full time freelance, I worked at a number of sneaker stores," says Hackett. "My last job in London was at Foot Patrol, where I was one of two women in the store. I feel like the industry has changed dramatically in the last few years though – we’re seeing more and more women in the scene."
As an agency director that works with brands across all creative realms, Morgan takes a particular interest in branding.
“I’ve always really respected Nike as a brand. They've always been this wildly successful brand that gets it right every time. You see their shoes everywhere. I only got into sneakers a couple years ago and Nike Air Max 90s were my first purchase. I’ve never looked back!”
As one of Nike’s most storied sneaker lines, most Air Max models have been reissued in colourways old and new, in OG silhouettes, or with air bubbles borrowed from a predecessor. Though there’s probably never been a better time to be a sneakerhead, Hackett remains sentimental about the Air Max that got away.
We think people always get more out of an experience knowing the context and process behind it all.
“I used to work at a Nike factory outlet. I still remember when five years ago, the Nike Plus (TN) was a kind of taboo shoe that not many people wore. We had a pair on the shelves that were all white with baby pink on them. I looked at them for weeks, til there were only a few pairs left that hadn't sold. Everyone I worked with were like, ‘No, you can't buy them’.
I never bought them and it’s my biggest regret. I haven’t seen that colourway since. I think about that shoe all the time.”
Curtin House, Melbourne, Australia
As part of Nike’s Melbourne: On Air event, a series of informative panels were held on the rooftop of the newly-coined Air House. These saw experts from Complex, Acclaim, Saint Side, Sole Finesse, Pitch Studios and more come together to discuss everything from the past and the future of Air Max, to the process of turning imagination into digital reality. Meanwhile, interactive workshops allowed sneakerheads to customise their own Air Max 270-inspired totes and up their Insta game with the help of photographer Cameron Oates. The vibrant space even offered the opportunity to interact with multiple Air-infused augmented reality moments, and see artists DOC~G and Aki Yaguchi collaborate on a massive posca marker art piece throughout the day.
Curtin House, Melbourne, Australia
As day turned to night, the Melbourne: On Air event switched up the pace and mutated into a party, with Boiler Room taking over the Curtin House rooftop to move the crowd with unconventional sounds and impressive visualisations, including a captivating projection courtesy of Pitch Studios that transformed the face of the entire building. The night saw brilliant local artists including Corin, Strict Face and Basenji take to the decks and stretch the boundaries with their distinctive future club sounds, before Australian dance stalwart Nina Las Vegas made her long-awaited Boiler Room debut. To catch those sets for yourself, you can hit the Boiler Room page.