Looking for original first hand inspirations for this concept, I’ve taken out the legendary SLAM Magazine “Jordan” issue which featured an in-depth interview where MJ said: “I feel like a fish in a fishbowl”, meaning the way that everyone was looking at his life inside and outside the court.
So I started thinking about MJ as a fish, what do they have in common, and if he is a fish, which kind of fish can he be.
What mostly can be compared to fishes is his style of play.
LeBron can be a Hummer or a truck, because of the power he shows in most of his time on the court. A snake fits well to Kobe because his style seems laid back, then he unexpectedly and deadly bites his opponents.
MJ style was unique and unmatched. He did everything with a seamless fluidity, simply beautiful to watch. Moves seemed so easy for him…he didn’t look fast, but he was.
So this kind of beautiful efficiency can be easily related to certain fishes for the way they can swim through the water.
Another side of MJ’s oncourt style was his ever hungry predator attitude.
Looking for info about the fastest fish, I came across a wonderful National Geographic documentary about Marlins and similar fast fish.
For their speed (>90km/h), resilience (>14.000km migrations) and magnificent way to move through the sea, it was easy to see them as the Michael Jordan alter-ego in the underwater world. The fact that they are also insatiable hunters helped to strenghten the comparison.
Coming to shoe design, all this is translated into the research for smooth, clean and hydrodynamic shapes, also trying to somehow recall fish body proportions and details.
For this reason the shoe had to have a lace cover and overlasted midsole (perfect to keep the interchangeable inner midsole solution of Air Jordan 2011, which was a widely appreciated feature among players).
Coming to the functional side of the concept, as requested by the design competition specs, the shoe had to be targeted to elongate Jordan Brand players careers.
As you have seen in these last NBA playoffs, ankle injuries have become even more relevant, maybe due to the increased power and weight of today’s players. Within the range of recent Nike techs I thought Hyperfuse upper construction was the best to be employed to create a lightweight but supportive upper to take care of players foot and ankle stability, while also providing unmatched fit and breathability. Since we are speaking of an Air Jordan flagship shoe, I thought about how to even improve the Hyperfuse features in par with Air Jordan game shoe state of the art performance demands. The idea was to fuse with normal layers an engineered variable thickness carbon fiber layer shaped to create a cage like structure along the ankles sides and below the foot, working with the heel counter to support the foot where necessary but also allowing the widest motion range possibile. For this reason, this Jordan Brand evolution of Hyperfuse has been named “CARBONFUSE”.
To increase the support and stability, especially in the lateral moves, I’ve also added an extra strip of rubber in the arc area (Arc Pod), since that one is the area where the lateral propulsion moves are originated from.
Finally, as a last design/functional cue to be applied to the shoe, taking inspiration from Striped Marlins, on the sides of the upper and at the bottom of the shoe I’ve added perforation stripes mocking Marlins stripes, that actually have the particular spec to change color when the Marlin gets excited entering into the “hunting mode”.
These perforations have been designed also to allow for perfect ventilation as well as proper flexibility of the sides of the upper.
Design feedback by Michael DiTullo:
I’ve come to expect more out of Pietro, and what I think happened here is he over thought it. The story is much too long, the end design has some intriguing details, but is not based in function enough to be in the top 3. Performance footwear for the worlds most demanding athletes must be born from function.
Design feedback by Brett Golliff:
The inspiration was cool but I think it is misplaced. I feel like it would have been better used in a running product than on the basketball court. The styling even reminds of a mid-top running shoe. The “Carbon Fuse” idea is very unique but I feel like it could be taken further. If you were fusing Carbon Fiber would you need a traditional shank plate? It could be strong enough to provide that needed support and truly making your design act as a second skin.