for years, a day in the life of artist tom sachs has begun with a strong cup of coffee and a series of drills — some serious physical feats, others a test of manual dexterity. these drills function to focus the body and mind to the task at hand, and for members of his studio, this means building sculpture. ‘we started doing this because I noticed that as some people in the studio were getting older, they were beginning to demonstrate the same physical symptoms of wear and tear that I had, and I was hoping to protect the young men and women who lay down their lives for our work — I didn’t want them to have bad backs,’ says sachs.

 

tom sachs’ artistic work has ranged from bricolage sculpture and deconstructed furniture, to full-scale interpretations of the NASA mars mission — but here, we dive into the history of sachs’ longstanding creative collaboration with one of the biggest sporting goods brand on the planet. few projects elucidate NIKE’s ‘better is temporary’ philosophy as effectively as the ongoing collaborative initiative NIKECRAFT. the endeavor has produced products since 2012, including iterative improvements to the popular ‘mars yard’ shoe and a shape-shifting poncho. underpinning every NIKECRAFT action is a transparent approach to doing, whether charting tests and trials or relaying evidence of construction methods.

the ‘mars yard’ shoe from tom sachs’ NIKECRAFT collaboration in 2012
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back in may 2012, NIKE and tom sachs partnered on the NIKECRAFT mars yard — a shoe inspired by the artist’s interactions with NASA’s highly specialized scientists, and designed as high-performance equipment for the building of his space program 2.0: mars exhibition (see designboom’s firsthand coverage of the show at the park avenue armory in new york here). ‘at NIKECRAFT, products are developed for athletes, not consumers,’ sachs shares on the now-sold out mars yard shoe. ‘our athlete, tommaso rivellini, is a mechanical engineer at jet propulsion laboratory in pasadena, california. among many other projects, tommaso invented the airbags used on the 1997 and 2004 mars rovers. long gone are the days of wingtipped brouges, pocket protectors, and skinny ties. the rocket scientist uniform of today is faded jeans, a golf shirt, and sneakers. these shoes are built to support the bodies of the strongest minds in the aerospace industry.’

NIKECRAFT
the ‘mars yard’ shoe from tom sachs’ NIKECRAFT collaboration in 2012
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special features of the first edition mars yard included outsoles borrowed from the NIKE special forces boot (SFB), vectran fabric from the mars excursion rover airbags, and detailing from apollo lunar overshoes. ‘these premium athletic shoes thrive in the rugged terrain of the simulated mars yard in pasadena, CA — as well as stealthily creeping the mission-funding hallways of headquarters in washington, D.C.’

the evolution of tom sachs' NIKECRAFT and the wear tests challenging the future 'mars yard'
the 2012 ‘marsfly jacket’ is packed with functionality that would ‘prove useful in the voyage through space’
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from this dynamic between sachs’ DIY aesthetic and the wide reaching NIKE brand, an entire artisanal capsule collection NIKECRAFT was born. this partnership debut included the mars yard shoe, the trench, the marsfly jacket, and the lightweight tote. NIKE and sachs applied materials that had never before been used in sportswear — sourced from automotive air bags, mainsails for boats, and space suits themselves. each piece was packed with functionality that could prove useful in a voyage through space, featuring zipper pulls that doubled as storage containers, paracords fashioned as a tourniquet, and embellishments like a periodic table of elements on the inside of a jacket.

NIKECRAFT
the 2012 ‘trench’ front view (left) and view of the back interior (right) as the jacket is worn inverted
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