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The strange story of the Nike Zvezdochka

Mark Newson's sneaker-masterpiece inspired by space travel

The strange story of the Nike Zvezdochka Mark Newson's sneaker-masterpiece inspired by space travel
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Few sneakers have a more cult history than the Nike Zvezdochka – perhaps the most legendary project by an equally legendary designer: Marc Newson. Born in Sydney, Marc Newson spent much of his childhood alternating between Europe and Asia. Since 1997 he has settled in London, where his studio is still based. Newson is one of the most critically acclaimed and influential industrial designers of his generation, his work has touched a wide range of sectors, giving life to creations ranging from objects for the home, to furniture, to fashion, passing through cars, private planes, yachts and architectural projects. His clients include many of the most famous and prestigious international brands, with which he has carried out projects that have had unprecedented success; just think of the two pairs of Nike that bear his name, the Apple products created when he was at the helm of the brand, his work for Louis Vuitton or everything he created as an independent designer. Nonetheless, the Nike Zvezdochka remain one of his most iconic works as far as sneaker culture is concerned.

Originally released in 2004 at a retail price of 500$, this futuristic silhouette created by Nike in collaboration with the Australian designer was released in 5 different colorways, which marked the beginning of a series of releases that ended in 2014. The idea of making a similar product arose from Newson’s experience at the Russian Space Agency, which inspired him to develop a multifunctional shoe for cosmonauts. The name, which in Russian means "star" came from the name of the dog so named by Yuri Gagarin who was sent into space in March of '61 on the Korabl-Sputnik 5 test flight before the famous expedition of the latter that was held on April 12. The dog made a full circle around Earth's orbit before returning to Earth's surface unharmed. Zvezdochka's flight was very important, celebrated with installations in museums and stamps, as the success of the launch was the last step required to approve Gagarin's mission.

The Zvezdochka was designed with a complex 3D printed modular shape modeled entirely on a computer, consisting of a flexible monobloc TPU upper, combined with a replaceable mesh sock, and a rubber sockliner equipped with grooves to bind the two components together. The interior sockliner also features a Nike Zoom Air unit embedded in the heel to improve cushioning. Moreover, thanks to its modular structure, the shoe is convertible for various needs and environments.

Two further iterations were released in September 2010 to commemorate the Transport exhibition held at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City, where Newson presented a speedboat he designed for the renowned Italian brand Riva. The two reissues were exclusively available at 21 Mercer St. Nike Store in NYC, in the Aegean Blue and Mahogany Red colorways nodding to the boat’s ones.

Eventually, to honor the 10-year anniversary of the Zvezdochka that recurred in December 2014, Nike re-released an updated version of the five original colorways at selected Nikelab Stores for a retail price of $300. This was the last official release of Zvezdochka and for the occasion Mark Parker, CEO of Nike commented:

«For the Zvevdochka, we knew we had broken new ground: a shoe with four interchangeable parts. It was such a simplified process and led to new exploration in how products are made and the potential for customization. It’s a great example of how a functional innovation helps drive a completely new aesthetic».

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In addition to the previously mentioned styles, Nike made and commissioned other variants of the Zvezdochka, including samples that have never been produced on a large scale.  An example are the 25 pairs of light in-the-dark Zvezdochkas produced in collaboration with Tim Biskup, the ones conceived by Wieden + Kennedy or the unreleased samples that you can admire scrolling through the gallery.

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