Riccardo Tisci collaborates with Nike on basketball collection, sneakers

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Riccardo Tisci took a break from his break to work with Nike on a new basketball-inspired collection.

“I’ve been on holiday, on sabbatical,” the designer told WWD at a special influencer event last month where his collection with the athletic giant was revealed under embargo to select members of the media.

“What [Nike] asked me to do, I was very honored because Nike went back to the NBA and I think it’s a big deal because Nike’s a big dream and the NBA’s a big dream in America,” Tisci said. “They asked me to do [it] and I was very flattered. I love Nike. I’ve worked with Nike seven years and I’ve always loved Nike since I was a child. I used to be a basketball player, so the NBA for me is like the castle — when you arrive.”

To that end, Tisci said he wanted something that screamed both basketball and Nike with designs that infused sport and streetwear via a fictional team dubbed the Victorious Minotaurs. The 16-piece NikeLab x RT Victorious Minotaurs collection includes a men’s track pant, wool sweater and Oxford shirt in addition to women’s tights and a mesh skirt.

The collection launches Thursday in North America, Oct. 20 in Paris and Oct. 21 in the rest of the world.

Pricing ranges from a $40 beanie and $75 T-shirt bearing the Victorious Minotaurs graphic on up to $195 track pants and $595 Destroyer style jacket.

“Graphic-wise, I worked on the Minotaur, because they were the gods, the hero, the strong man and I feel today, what is a basketball player? They became the new rock star. They are the heroes. They are the strongman,” Tisci said.

The item that’s perhaps received the most buzz and source of much conjecture has been the shoes, the NikeLab x RT Air Force 1. Tisci played with the shoe’s toe box and designed with the American flag in mind. The footwear features on the toe box a new NikeLab x RT logo, also done up in red, white and blue. The Air Force 1s will retail for $220 and are set for release on the same rollout schedule as the apparel collection.

“I wanted each garment or pair of shoes [that] you understand straight away it’s Nike and straight away it’s the NBA,” Tisci said.

It’s fitting with Nike making a big statement at Sony Studios in Culver City, Calif. in September to celebrate its partnership with the NBA. The next day it celebrated the Air Force 1, displaying styles from the Nike archives while previewing under wraps a number of collaborations, including the one with Tisci.

The designer wasn’t shy in projecting his latest Nike shoe collaboration’s success either.

“It’s going to be a hit. This one is going to be like my Air Force from several years ago,” he said referencing an earlier collaboration with Nike on the Air Force 1.

The project was a success and part of a much larger trend that’s taken hold of the industry with a strong focus on sportswear and streetwear to tap new generations of consumers.

“I think people [are] obsessed with the collaboration [because]…sportwear at the moment is a very modern, future way to talk to the [consumer] and I think people want that to talk to the young generation,” Tisci said.

Still, the designer pointed out the proliferation of collaborations has reached a certain tipping point.

“Our collaboration was more honest,” Tisci said of his first collaboration with Nike. “I think so many people now they’re doing it the wrong way because they’re trying to get the formula for sportswear. It’s not really believed [by consumers] and when it’s not believed, it’s not successful.”

Asked if he thinks there will be any counterreaction, the designer nodded yes.

“Fashion is not to collaborate with people just to steal [ideas]. Fashion needs to invent a formula more modern. With a collaboration, you’re stealing the formula,” Tisci said.

It goes back to the industry’s obsession with the oft-used and overused concept of authenticity. Tisci said his collaboration with Nike is different and believable.

“In Italy we have the American dream and Nike’s part of the American dream. Like when you think rock music, you think Coca-Cola. You think American. You think Guns N’ Roses. You think Nike,” Tisci said. “So many people ask me to work with them, but I didn’t want to work [with others] because I do my job in my way. Nike for me was a collaboration full of emotions. This moment in my life that is a sabbatical, I want to just do things that I love and I want to work with people I love and I think Nike’s one of them.”

The time off since his departure from creative director at Givenchy has been good for him, he said.

“Everybody needs [a sabbatical],” he said. “If I was a president of a country I would give every 10 years everybody [who] does a job that’s stressful, they should have six months off and then go back to the same job because you do it better. I can come back now and kill everything.”

He then burst out laughing when it was suggested he should run for office with that idea: “Yes, I should run for president.”


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