The movement that Nike Women is initiating in its celebration of women* globally is advancing with ever increasing momentum, and breaking new boundaries in the field of sport, dance, and wellness. Celebrating its new ventures, the imminent Women’s World Cup and the upcoming Olympics in 2024, Nike returned to Paris last week for a special collaboration with choreographer Parris Goebel, for an event titled Goddess Awakened, celebrating all forms of womanhood, femininity, creativity and self-expression. The 40 minute performance piece choreographed by Parris Goebel introduced the next era for Nike Women – starring a collective body of more than 30 Nike athletes, dancers and partners – to celebrate “the collective power of womanhood through movement, style and self-expression.”
Speaking to Schön!, Liz Weldon, VP of Nike’s Global Women’s Brand Management, explained that Nike Women is here to channel the creativity of women’s voices, too often pushed to the sidelines. Creating a piece that brought together all the aspects of Nike Women was fundamental. “We thought about Paris, because of the Olympics, because of it being a city of fashion, style and creativity. We’ve been working with Parris [Goebel] and we wanted her to choreograph something that expressed artful athleticism, creativity, diversity, and body style.”
Harnessing the power of collective bodies, women’s voices took centre stage in the performance: the goddess of victory Nike herself inspired the piece, with choreography exploring what self-expression really means, in all its different states and stages, evolving into empowerment and emancipation. The Goddess Awakened piece was also the moment that Nike Women showcased its brand new collaborations – with pieces seen for the first time – notably with designers Yoon Ahn of Ambush, Feng Chen Wang and Martine Rose. Speaking to Schön!, Yoon Ahn explains that she was quick to jump on the opportunity to collaborate with Nike for a second time when they approached her, accepting without hesitation. “My first thoughts were how can I push this into a bigger collective story?” she tells us. “I wanted to bring my angle to the mix. I was able to get into more depth, about my own personal story too.”
Working around the idea of unity across cultures, and on bridging divides, a key look is a patchwork jacket of soccer scarves, celebrating the idea of unity found in sport, and the breaking down of barriers between identities, cultures, spaces. What was motivating for Ahn was not only the challenges of working on performance wear, but also the opportunity of collaborating on Nike’s contribution to a greater cause – one that goes way beyond the simple limits of fashion. “What I like about working with Nike is not just about bringing my ideas but also the cultural impact. We dive much deeper into what it means culturally. Fashion also has that, but I feel like fashion is a little bit of a late bloomer to street culture, if that makes sense. Nike has been there, inspiring generations of people who might not have paid attention to fashion. Nike can bring that audience. “
The collection also features Yoon Ahn’s take on an iconic sneaker – “It’s not a soccer sneaker, it’s a basketball sneaker, I wanted to bring an update to the Uptempo because I’m a huge fan of it. I’m a huge Nike sneaker fan, so I wanted to put my spin on it.”
Working with Nike has given Yoon Ahn the space to reflect and reinvent her relationship to her own body, in a mutually symbiotic relationship. “You get reminded about wellness, fitness, collectivity,” she relates. “The thing about fashion is that it’s really about the surface. What’s the latest thing, the latest trend, the hottest thing. It’s a really material, tangible thing. So we have that conversation with Nike, thinking about what’s coming up, what items can we do – the cultural issue is always there, whatever we’re doing. Over here at Nike, we really talk about the body, about health, about wellness.”
Wellness, for Nike Women, embodies the potential to bridge the gap between global movements and the more intimate wellbeing of the individual. “When we started working on Well Collective – we thought about how we can bring wellness to people, wherever they are, because people globally are in different spaces, personally,” explains Liz Weldon. “Everything we do falls underneath our five pillars – movement, mindfulness, nutrition, rest and connection.” The changes in Nike are integrating sports and artforms, working with scientists, partners, athletes, wellness experts, dancers, individuals who can contribute to bringing the most sensitive work on dance, breathwork, Yoga, mental health initiatives, in order to create new tools, available through the Nike training apps as well as through the social media platforms of the brand.
The collaborations with designers, in that sense, synthesise a cultural, aesthetic, performance dynamix, with a more movement led approach: “When we look at partners, we think: if they can do it without us, we shouldn’t be partnering; the same applies if we can do it without them. If they have something and we have something, together we can bring benefits to people’s lives, through product, creativity, style or expression: that’s where it really becomes important,” Liz Weldon tells us. “These collections specifically have really, really powerful stories behind each one of them: Yoon Ahn had such a strong story of unity and love around the world. I think it’s sending a similar message to the message that the performance hopefully sends – on the types of qualities and values that we want to express.”
The unity and strength of the movement that Nike Women is celebrating was palpable at the show, championing all forms of bodies, identities and stories, in a global world view that brings together the personal and the collective. This moment, seemingly, is only just beginning.
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words. Patrick Clark
images. Courtesy of Nike