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Nike Makes Circularity Its Moon Shot With ‘Space Hippie’ Shoes, Olympics Uniforms

Nike is taking one small step for a sneaker, and one giant leap for footwear.

On Wednesday, the sportswear giant debuted Space Hippie, a collection of shoes constructed with Nike’s terrestrial version of “space junk”—which is to say, post-production scrap materials recovered from its factory floors.

Composed of four “rebelliously optimistic” silhouettes, the line is a “radical expression of circular design” that boasts the brand’s lowest carbon-footprint scores yet, according to John Hoke, chief design officer at Nike.

“Space Hippie presents itself as an artifact from the future,” he said in a statement. “It’s avant garde; it’s rebelliously optimistic.”

Every detail of the shoes—from material choices to packaging methods—was carefully weighed to create as little environmental impact as possible, Hoke said.

The uppers, which consist of something Nike dubs “Space Waste” yarn, have been spun from 100 percent recycled materials, including castoff plastic bottles, T-shirts and textiles. For the cushioning, the brand employed remnants from the production of the Vaporfly 4%, repurposing the ZoomX foam in a way that generates half as many carbon emissions as typical Nike foams.

The shoes are anchored by midsoles made of “Crater Foam,” which blends standard Nike foams with 15 percent Nike Grind rubber from crushed-up old shoes and surplus manufacturing materials. Reducing the amount of virgin material, Hoke said, confers the shoes with a lower carbon footprint, while creating a “really unique” texture and colorful terrazzo-like effect.

“Space Hippie is also an idea,” Hoke said “It is about figuring out how to make the most with the least material, the least energy and the least carbon.”

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Seana Hannah, Nike’s vice president of sustainable innovation, sees Space Hippie as driving a new vision for how things are made, used and ultimately reused, not just at Nike but the industry at large.

“We believe the future for product will be circular,” she said. “We must think about the entire process: how we design it, how we make it, how we use it, how we reuse it and how we cut out waste at every step. These are the fundamentals of a circular mindset that inform best practices.”

Those ideals will be in full display this summer when Team U.S.A. steps onto the champions’ podium at the Tokyo Olympics.

Nike will be outfitting the athletes in its chevron-panel Windrunner jacket, clad in 100 percent recycled polyester, knit to shape for minimal waste and stamped with the national team logo in Nike Grind rubber. Team U.S.A.’s pants will be constructed from 100 percent recycled nylon and given a 100 percent recycled polyester mesh lining. Additional elements, such as drawcord tips, zipper pools and Swoosh branding, will comprise Nike Grind.

The Olympians will also wear an updated version of Nike’s Vapormax, which it makes using 75 percent recycled manufacturing waste and bills as one of its lowest-impact footwear. Bonus features of the Vapormax 2020, Nike noted, include FlyEase technology, which will enable “easy entry and adjustability for athletes of all abilities” on the medal stand.

Each color and material, Nike added, was inspired by a “view of piles of waste from a distance, mixing different textures, colors and shapes together.”