WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Retail will soon be going through another disruption, one where personalised products are made on demand in the back of stores, and the sportswear industry are leading the charge.
We’re facing a retail revolution, another one, and this time it’s not e-commerce, one where everything from clothes and homeware, to sports apparel, will be designed, personalised, and manufactured on demand in local warehouses and in the back of stores in local communities, and not in factories in China. First there was Amazon, who now has all the pieces it needs to become a fully autonomous clothes designer, manufacturer and shipper, and now Nike, in the sportswear space, have announced that they’ve managed to solve the last problem facing the on demand manufacturing of kicks – 3D printing the “uppers,” or as you and I know them, the tops of the shoe.
When Nike’s latest breakthrough is combined with others though, for example, one from Adidas, who recently 3D printed the first mass market lower, as they call it, or as we all call it “sole,” and showed off their first on demand store, and Under Armour’s 3D printed Architect shoe, which was designed by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) it means that in the future kicks, and then in the long term all sports apparel, will be personalised, and on demand. Goodbye supply chains, goodbye inventory, hello profits and hello new business model.
See the technology in action
Nike have been trying to perfect their upper technology for years now but their breakthrough came thanks to a new material they developed, a TPU filament, which is a plastic type material that can be melted and applied in layers, but despite that it’s the geometry of how the upper is 3D printed that’s the real success story. The result of all this innovation is a high performance shoe upper that can be rapidly customised for specific regions and races, as well as for individual runners.
Regardless of the athlete though Nike Flyprint promises to be both lighter and more breathable than previous textiles, and the “fused” nature of 3D printing, the way different materials and layers are manufactured together, also eliminates the frictional resistance that comes with conventional fabrics making the shoe even more performant than before.
There are also huge advantages for individual athletes as well though – the first run of the so called Zoom Vaporfly Elite Flyprint shoe is destined for Kipchoge, one of Nike’s marathon runners, and promises to not only be 0.38oz lighter, which is a big difference in this category, but more resistant to the water absorption that can bog athletes down during their run.
You’ll first see the technology in action when Kipchoge uses an Elite Flyprint pair in a marathon later this year, and if you want a pair for yourself then I’m told they’ll soon be appearing in Nike’s app in limited numbers for $600 a pop, so keep your eyes peeled and be fast, because blink and they’ll be gone. Just like the athletes wearing them!