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How the Nike Atsuma Uses Innovative Pattern Design to Curb Waste

What if you could eliminate waste with good design alone?

That’s the aim with one of Nike’s newest sneakers, the Nike Atsuma. With the shoe, the brand wanted to incorporate negative space into the design in order to fully utilize textile scraps created during the production process. The fabric used to cut out the iconic Nike Swoosh found on the lateral side of the Atsuma is mirrored with a cutout on the other side of the shoe so that no part of the textile goes to waste.

“It’s a handsome aesthetic feature—pleasant for looks alone—but also one that manifested a design challenge,” the brand said in a statement. “The charge: Reduce material waste by increasing pattern efficiency.”

The same principle is repeated for the heel counter and eyestay; each of the elements are cut from the same scrap of material and then mirrored. And the cutout principle extends beyond the upper to Atsuma’s outsole, which is split into two different colors, arranged in a way that eliminated the need for scraps or waste.

“Nike Atsuma rethinks and reimagines how traditional cut-and-sew footwear can be improved by considering how offcuts can act as critical components of the shoe’s construction and beautiful elements of its design,” Nike said.

Nike's Atsuma sneaker uses intelligent pattern design to prevent material waste by designing around fabric cutouts.
For every piece that is cut out for the Nike Atsuma, there is an equal and opposite design element.

In September, Nike pledged to move toward zero carbon and zero waste as a part of its stance on climate change, prompted in part by a belief that the shift in Earth’s climate system could start to curb sports, which obviously wouldn’t bode well for business.

“Many U.S. states have adopted rules to keep players safe in increasingly hot and humid conditions, mandating shorter practices, wearing less equipment or even canceling games,” Nike pointed out. “Without global action, under current trends climate change could decrease time spent on the field by up to two months in parts of Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi by 2050.”

Nike committed to several initiatives designed to reduce the effects of climate change, one of which includes diverting 99 percent of its footwear manufacturing waste from landfills.

Other objectives for Nike’s climate change fight include the elimination of single-use plastics on Nike campuses worldwide and continuing to incorporate used plastic in designs. According to Nike, it has already diverted 6.4 billion plastic bottles from landfills since 2010.

The Nike Atsuma, which is expected to help the brand reach its lower-impact goals, will be available for purchase at the start of the new year on Jan. 1.