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Data Inspires Versatile New Training Capsule Collab from Nike

Nike has teamed up with Italy-based designer Matthew M. Williams to deliver a collection that marries data with organic elements, elevating “functional” training apparel in the process.

“In the space of training, the aesthetic is 100 percent informed by a garment’s purpose,” Kurt Parker, Nike’s VP of apparel design, said. Acknowledging the opportunity to experiment and evolve the training category, Nike partnered with Williams, the creative brains behind design label Alyx, for his “unique aesthetic with an unwavering eye for utility.”

Launching on July 12, the Nike x MMW collaboration builds on the athletic brand’s efforts last summer to rethink the design of the humble T-shirt. The NikeLab team brought together Flyknit engineers, computational design, and motion and heat maps to produce a seamless, single-layer tee offering breathability and ventilation where needed, for comfort in multiple environments, from the subway to social settings.

Though Nike said data can’t be the sole consideration in apparel design, adding hard numbers into the mix has its advantages. “Whenever you get a hold of a way to visualize data, it lets you start thinking about how to solve the problem differently,” Parker said.

“What computational design and computer data can offer is really the future of design,” Williams said. “It allows us to see things or take things further than we might otherwise.” For example, garment patterning hasn’t changed significantly since its conception—but an informed understanding on the science behind thermoregulation and biomechanics can drive apparel designs that better benefit the wearer. If the goal is moisture wicking, then using heat maps to pinpoint the parts of the anatomy that most frequently overheat will dictate where the right fabrics should be place.

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Instead of being constrained by traditional approaches to designing apparel, bringing data and computational design into the equation can unlock new possibilities and perspectives. “It helps to create a different perspective that we can build around. Working in tandem—with data and emotion—is super interesting,” Williams said.

For Williams, the real magic lies in adding “organic” touches like raw edges to computer-driven designs. “You need human beings to still figure out how to interpret data in a great way,” he said. “The storytelling of how the product links to its use and bring an emotion to it into—tug on the heartstrings a little bit. That’s where I see my role.”

The Nike x MMW collection is just the latest example of how seriously the athletic brand, which is emerging from a months-long boy’s-club scandal, is investing in digital and data-driven initiatives in many areas of its business—from acquiring startups like computer vision company Invertex and Zodiac to dropping its inaugural Connected Shoe.