Tom Sachs And Nike: A Match Made In Outer Space

07/17/17

Collaborating with Nike is a big deal. The most powerful footwear brand in the world? Sneakers that everyone collected and loved growing up? Yes, a collaboration with the Swoosh is certainly a milestone in almost any creator’s career.

Then there’s Tom Sachs, whose “Mars Yard” sneaker has released twice, and blown off virtual shelves faster than you can say “Marvin the Martian” twice. What sets Sachs apart from other artists who have worked with Nike on a limited-edition shoe is that he’s not really into sneakers or sneaker collecting at all. He’s even gone so far as to state “We all die alone and without our possessions, including our sneaker collection”.

Nike x Tom Sachs Mars Yard 2.0

Those are bold words for someone who created one of the hottest shoes of 2017 … but maybe that’s why his shoes are so popular. Just like the man himself, they’re genuine, rough around the edges, and not pretentious at all.

Sachs offers a unique philosophy on life and work, and that philosophy is reflected in his art and designs. He’s often poked fun at the aloofness of high-fashion houses, creating sculptures of a Chanel-branded chainsaw, a Prada toilet, and a Hermes fast-food value meal. His thoughts on work are fully brought to light in his famous “10 Bullets” film, which outlines the code the employees of his studio must abide by (highlights include Always Be Knolling and “Sacrifice To Leatherface”), and he applied that same code while designing his infamous “Mars Yard” kicks.

A sizable portion of Sachs’s work (including the “Mars Yard” sneakers) is heavily inspired by outer space, mainly the Apollo missions of the 60’s and 70’s. He specializes in bricolage, which is a technique practiced by an artist who “hobbles together functional contraptions out of already given or collected materials, which he re-tools and re-signifies into new objects with novel uses, but more importantly, which he regenerates into a new, oscillating syntax: one of loss, gain, and more than anything, one of play.”

Distilled down to simpler terms, his aesthetic is one that’s intentionally rough, not polished, and shows all the steps of his work, just like your middle school math teacher insisted that you do on your algebra homework.

Nike x Tom Sachs Mars Yard 1.0

This bricolage construction process lead to the first version of the “Mars Yard” sneaker (pictured above) being one of the most interesting releases of the last few years, as even though the materials the sneaker was constructed with borrowed fabrics from NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory (the upper was partially constructed with vectran fabric from the Mars Excursion Rover’s airbags).

Even though these materials were tested to be fire-resistant and stronger than steel, they broke down after minimal day-to-day wear in the regular world, as the NASA-designed components couldn’t handle the grind of the streets. This would discourage many a designer, but it sent Sachs happily scurrying back to the drawing board to tinker and make adjustments. “We’ve used this as an opportunity to address some of the things that didn’t go as planned.” said Sachs in a Vanity Fair interview about the shoes. “The thing I’m most excited about is how this project is a true embrace of failure.”

Tom Sachs’ “Space Camp” in collaboration with Nike

And there’s even more uniqueness to the spacy shoe collaboration than the shoes themselves. When the “Mars Yard” 2.0 released earlier this month, there was no raffle or hours-long first-come-first-serve line … there was a “space camp”.

If you lived in New York and wished to purchase the shoes, you signed up online, then went down to Governor’s Island where you’d be put through a series of 5 “essential exercises” that Sachs practices with his design team, like deadlifts and ab wheels. Each of these 5 motions correlated with a certain skill that you’d need to possess to work in Sachs’s New York studio … or to be worthy of wearing his shoes.

And online customers were not exempt from “space camp” tests either. Sure, they didn’t have to put themselves through grueling physical exercises, but they did have to pass five tests of “digital dexterity” to cop the highly-anticipated shoes from the comfort of their home. Nothing worth having comes easy, especially a great pair of lunar-inspired kicks.

With his unique aesthetic, design process, and release trials (of both the mental and physical variety), Sachs is an unassuming sneaker hero. His shoes are unlike anything else on the market today, and the great amount of thought, detail, and story that goes into them is what makes them special. The Mars Yard 2.0 will be releasing again later this month … so be sure you’re ready. You want to take a trip to space, don’t you?

What’s your favorite thing about the Nike x Tom Sachs “Mars Yard?” Do you prefer the original version, or this year’s 2.0 model? Hit us up and let us know on Twitter, check our Facebook page for updates, and, as always, be sure to follow us on Instagram for all the fire pictures you can handle.

-RDwyer