Jerry Lorenzo’s Nike Air Fear of God Collaboration
In 2011, Jerry Lorenzo made his first trip to Nike’s sprawling 286-acre campus in Beaverton, Oregon. At the time, he was managing former Los Angeles Dodgers all-star Matt Kemp and hoped that, through Kemp, he’d be able to design a signature sneaker. “I wanted to build Matt into the next Ken Griffey Jr. and to design a performance shoe for baseball, kind of like how the Griffey was on field and off,” he says. “I thought it would have to happen through somebody like Matt or another athlete. It always seemed like a dream.”
Lorenzo didn’t end up creating a sneaker with Kemp. But this past September, the designer confirmed a collaboration with the Swoosh through his own brand, Fear of God; at the end of the film for Fear of God’s Sixth collection, he stepped out of a pick-up truck in a previously unseen sail Nike Air Fear of God 1 high-top basketball sneaker. Seven years later, Lorenzo finally had his own Nike shoe. And not just any sneaker: an entirely new silhouette—an opportunity very few Nike collaborators have had. “I knew that I couldn’t come here and color up a retro and be successful,” Lorenzo says. “My greatest proposition of fashion is in shape and proportion. I was very clear with Nike—like, ‘Hey, this is what I can offer.’”
So he’s not taking this moment lightly. Hunched over a wooden table at a research library in the Mia Hamm Building on the Nike campus, Lorenzo is scrutinizing minute details of his collection, which will include apparel and sneakers, with a few Nike designers. “Does that feel small?” he asks as he lines up two silver rulers against an Air Fear of God script logo, which mirrors the original Flight emblem, printed across the back of a washed-black T-shirt. “How about 15 [inches] instead of 12?” Later, he’ll obsess over the color of the insignia. “This is sail?” he says, pointing to the word “AIR.” “Maybe this should be fossil, like the color of the sole [of the sneakers], ‘cause right now it feels a little too close.” No detail is too small for Lorenzo; this project is too important.
“His attention to detail is insane,” says Nike Basketball footwear design director Leo Chang, who has worked on Kevin Durant’s and Kyrie Irving’s sneaker lines and now the Nike Air Fear of God sneakers with Lorenzo. “He took us to another level with the craft, with just sweating every single thing.”
Lorenzo first met with Nike to discuss the possibility of working together roughly three years ago. The conversation went something like this: John Hoke, the company’s chief design officer, invited Lorenzo to Soho House in West Hollywood and talked about Nike’s needs in performance wear—a category Lorenzo saw as Fear of God’s “next chapter.” They explored opportunities with football, training, and even baseball. In the end, they landed at basketball. “Basketball is at the essence of sneaker culture,” says Lorenzo. “Everything comes from and is birthed from and post the Air Jordan. Back then, all you needed was a pair of Jordans. We didn’t have access to fashion designers and creative directors like the kids do now. Our fashion director, our creative director, was [Michael] Jordan. And Nike was creating the footwear, the foundation for your wardrobe.”
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