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Waffle x sacai

Nike initially entered into a partnership with sacai in 2015, when the Japanese luxury fashion brand and the innovative NikeLab worked together to create a new apparel collection. While the footwear producer contributed its expertise in sports design to the collaboration, sacai brought its ability to combine a streetwear aesthetic with the elegance of formal attire. Among other stylish items, the two crafted a unique version of the Air Max 90, which was followed by a duo of similarly stripped back Dunk designs. Having established a good connection, Nike and sacai linked up again in 2018 to focus on their next collaborative silhouette. This time, they decided to delve even deeper into Nike’s history, going all the way back to the shoe that started it all – Bill Bowerman’s legendary Waffle Trainer – resulting in the striking Nike Waffle x sacai sneaker.

The first public viewing of the debut Nike sacai Waffles came during Paris Fashion Week in June 2019. Sacai’s founder, designer Chitose Abe, had designed a typically experimental apparel collection inspired by the Japanese art of kintsugi and characterised by her use of contrasting materials and styles, which extended to the shoes as well. Her penchant for hybridisation was evident in the doubled-up features of the Nike LDWaffle sacai as it was paraded up and down the catwalk. It was, in fact, a pairing of two of Nike’s early runners: the LDV (Long Distance Vector) and the Waffle Daybreak, both of which made use of Bowerman’s Waffle sole to provide athletes with good quality grip at the end of the 1970s.

Later in 2019, the LDWaffle x sacai saw its first general release with a series of colourways made from various materials, including mesh, synthetic leather and suede. Almost every feature is duplicated: the heel counter, the forefoot mudguard, the eyestay, the sidewall swooshes, the laces and even the tongue. Its midsole is also stacked into two distinct layers, while the outsole incorporates the traditional Waffle design. Intriguing branding effects have been used across the shoe, with a custom Nike x sacai emblem on the heel and insole and a vintage Nike Sportswear logo on the primary tongue label.

A total of five colourways featuring this eccentric build came out in 2019, including an elegant Summit White version with Wolf Grey elements and a suave Black one with contrastive hints of white and grey. The other three are decorated in a range of vibrant colours, starting with the Varsity Blue, whose mix of navy, red and yellow hues gives it a retro look. Meanwhile, the Green Gusto employs a lime green tone over its mesh upper alongside orange swooshes and yellow overlays, and the Pine Green introduces a rich magenta on its outer panels, a deeper shade of green through the mesh layer and a blend of oranges and yellows on its swooshes, heel panel and inner.

With its offbeat build and its subtle connection to Nike’s history, the LDWaffle was a big success, causing the collaboration to expand and grow in subsequent years. Two monochrome editions were added to the original collection in 2020, both of them swapping out the mesh underlayer of the 2019 sneakers for a smooth nylon fabric, earning them the appropriate nicknames of White Nylon and Black Nylon. At the same time, Nike and sacai were preparing another Waffle design, this one a mashup of old and new, combining the original Pegasus from 1983 with a modern runner: 2017’s highly impactful Vaporfly.

Like the LDWaffle, the Nike VaporWaffle x sacai made its first public appearance on the catwalk at sacai’s 2020 Autumn/Winter event. Once again, it drew attention with its chunky midsole, duplicated features and Waffle outsole. The initial run, which came towards the end of 2020, produced four colourways, including the Black and Summit White edition and a primarily white one with Sport Fuchsia and Game Royal accents. The third was the sporty Tour Yellow, with its green suede toe and leather heel overlays, while the fourth was the Villain Red – a suave mix of rich burgundy, bright teal and neutral off-white with hints of black.

In the years since, the VaporWaffle has returned several times, always with a flexible nylon upper in place of the mesh found on the debut colourways. 2021 delivered two colourful designs, the Sesame and the Dark Iris. The former has a collection of tan and beige tones alongside white and navy highlights, while the latter exhibits the brighter hues of violet and orange over a pristine white midsole. Just as they did with the LDWaffle, the two brands decided to release monochrome versions of this new silhouette, the Black Gum and Sail Gum both coming out during the following year.

After the initial success of the Nike Waffle x sacai, the pair looked to bring in new creative partners to add their own unique twist to the LDWaffle. The brands they chose were like-minded in their forward-thinking design approach, and all three had previously worked with Nike. They were also close with Chitose Abe, with Fragment Design and Undercover both based in her native Japan, and CLOT founded in Hong Kong. Each brought their own individual flair to the LDWaffle, beginning with Fragment, whose Blue Void and Light Smoke Grey colourways have stylish branding on the midsole that reads “The Classic / Fragment : sacai”. Meanwhile, CLOT took inspiration from its 2013 Air Max 1 collaboration, even giving one of its two designs the same nickname, Kiss of Death 2, as well as a similar colour scheme of Cool Grey and Neutral Grey with navy and pale blue swooshes on the flanks. CLOT’s second colourway, Orange Blaze, is altogether more vibrant, its semi-translucent beige upper accented with striking red, orange and lime green tones, and a light snakeskin complexion on its primary swooshes. Lastly, Undercover went for a more retro feel on its three colourways, implementing darker tones on each nylon upper alongside fuzzy suede panelling in neutral blacks, whites and greys. These muted tones are accompanied by matte colours on the primary swooshes, the laces, the inner and the Waffle outsole, with yellow on the Bright Citron edition, royal blue on the Night Maroon, and scarlet red on the Midnight Spruce.

Alongside this, the VaporWaffle also got a new collaborator in the form of high-end French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier. Bringing his unconventional style to the silhouette, he created two mid-top colourways in 2021: the colourful Sesame and the dusky Black. Each has a patchwork upper crafted using a range of materials and held together with baseball-style stitching. These were followed up in 2023 by a duo of low-tops decorated in distinctive woven panels that bring elegance to the White colourway and an eye-catching kaleidoscopic effect to the Multi-Color edition.

Since its inception, the Nike Waffle x sacai partnership has brought about some of the most eccentric shoe designs. This has seen them become immensely popular amongst sneaker enthusiasts, while the introduction of a host of experimental designers in Hiroshi Fujiwara, Jun Takahashi, Edison Chen and Kevin Poon has delivered even more extroverted versions of the LDWaffle. The collaboration has shown no signs of slowing down either, so the potential is always there for new hybrid sneakers to emerge from this unique creative team.

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