Nike has never really stood still, that much has been clear ever since their founding. Be it through apparel or footwear, the brand continues to move the needle, speeding down a “windy road” to innovation as VP of Apparel Innovation Janett Nichol would put it. Today, they still carry the spirit and energy of Bill Bowerman; and though they’ve long-upgraded from the waffle irons he made use of all those years ago, they’ve never strayed far from the aforementioned road.
On this journey, after many a fork, the Swoosh has discovered FIT ADV, a new technology that evolves one of the their longest running collections.
Back in October, Nike cut the ribbons to the LeBron Innovation Center, a pivotal hub of technology that’s been instrumental in the creation of new product. FIT ADV is their latest breakthrough, a step above the original FIT line which first hit the market in 1991. Every pillar — whether Dri-FIT, Therma-FIT, or Storm-FIT — is to arrive entirely overhauled, each piece stamped with ADV, a mark one can trust to keep them either dry, warm, or protected.
“When you buy a garment with the hangtag ‘FIT ADV’ — that’s ‘FIT Advanced’ — you’re getting the absolute best that Nike has to offer in both performance and athletic apparel,” Nichols mentions.
In essence, FIT ADV is a class above the line it succeeds. It takes the same attention to detail, rigorous tests, and materials and layers on in-depth athlete insights and sport science. Body-mapped engineering, innovative construction, and utility-focused features come together so that the athlete can focus on their movement and not the elements.
FIT ADV is the culmination of constant athlete testing, all gathered at the state-of-the-art LeBron James Innovation Center. Within its walls, Nike designers have been able to collect and build on all types of data — be it how much an athlete sweats and where to the parts of the body that are most vulnerable to cold and wind — creating digital computational designs that no one could feasibly sketch themselves. This process allows for pinpoint accuracy, the material now easy to engineer pixel-by-pixel to cool, warm, or protect the body at the points it needs it most.
“That’s where the ‘advanced’ comes in,” Nichol continues. “It’s the ability to get incredibly specific and prescriptive about where technologies need to be, and then to have a little fun with how those technologies show up — say, highlighting the cooling zones with a pop of color, which, visually, can be compelling and beautiful.”
FIT ADV previously debuted atop a series of performance apparel. But as of today, the technology has joined Nike ACG to outfit a new lifestyle range, which includes cold-tested puffer jackets, utility shirts, and much more. And among what’s on the shelves, the “Lunar Lake” jacket and vest are especially worth noting as the team endeavored to Iceland to ensure the garments would be able to withstand the frigid conditions.
If you’re looking to try out FIT ADV for yourself, you won’t have to make the long trip into the cold. The collection is available right now at Nike.com.
Make sure to follow @kicksfinder for live tweets during the release date.
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We were fortunate enough to sit down with Janett Nichol, VP of Apparel Innovation, who speaks on what it took to create FIT ADV, Nike’s refusal to compromise, and her experience witnessing innovation happen right before her eyes. Lightly edited for clarity and brevity, our conversation can be found below. And beyond that, we also speak to Nur Abbas, the Design Director Apparel Men’s Lifestyle.
What learnings were instrumental in bringing FIT ADV to life?
There’s a lot of learnings that we’ve had. So first thing is the athlete insights and the broadening of our athlete insights. So now that we’ve gone to a spectrum of athletes versus just the elite, we’ve learned a tremendous amount of things that we just didn’t focus on because we were so focused on these elite athletes. That has really encouraged us to look at things differently. Everything from how we solve problems; who do we solve problems with; what are the technologies available to us, what isn’t; what should we start to work on; what are ways that we can hack things, whether it’s software, programs, machines. We’ve gone to the lengths of looking at something and saying we’re not going to use it this way. We’re gonna do it this way and see what happens. And that has really unlocked a lot of new things for us. What we’ve been able to come up with through FIT ADV is really a compilation of a lot of these things. We’ve been thinking about everything from how do we engineer pixel-by-pixel or fiber-by-fiber to what science is out there that can change something and make it act a different way.
The athlete insights have been a big unlock. We’re taking that information, putting it through systems that are now going through a digital lens, and what’s coming out on the other side has been eye opening for us. We’ve actually gone to the length where we’ve taken that information and what comes out on the other side is the thing. So that has really changed everything, because we like to look at it as the physical manifestation of the athletes’ insight — that changes the game. Because as creative as our teams are, they would even say to you that “I, personally, as a designer, could not illustrate that; I could not imagine that.” That’s where the power comes: you bring in the science and the technology, you merge that with the art and the soul, and you get something that’s extremely powerful. That’s what’s happened with FIT ADV.
Since you’re covering a wider spectrum of athletes, do you feel like you’re making any compromises?
No, if anything, it’s the reverse. Because now what’s happened is it’s opened up so many possibilities that we didn’t know were there — or that we just weren’t even focused on because, like I said, we were focused on our elite athletes. What’s important to note is that there are a couple of constants that don’t change; our athletes, regardless of where they are, and what they do are at the center of everything we do. We don’t compromise, because there is no movement too small. So we put as much energy in every athlete as we can to make sure that we’re unlocking an innovation that really is meaningful, and allows those athletes to break the barriers that they put in front. Whatever that personal goal is, they’re able to achieve it. And so it has actually been, for our team, an amazing experience because it really has opened up a world of possibilities.
Do you think like the average person would be able to instantly realize that innovation?
Depending on which products they pick up, right? We definitely have now dimensionalized our platform so that you will be able to, in some cases, see the technology; it’s not just something that’s embedded in the material. But the physical manifestation of that technology is very obvious. It responds based on what the athlete is doing. So if our focus is to make sure that we are supporting the body’s natural temperature, if the body’s temperature changes based on an activity, we definitely have some propositions that respond in kind — and you will be able to see it.
Will we see older FIT products made obsolete and replaced with FIT ADV?
FIT as a technology will go across a wide variety of products. Fit ADV is the next level. So we will always have FIT and FIT ADV. At the FIT level, just know that everything has gone through testing, a lot of rigorous processes; FIT ADV, like I was saying earlier, is a dimension beyond that. You’ll see two levels of FIT, so it doesn’t matter where our consumer engages with the brand, they can engage with a FIT product of their choosing.
Were there any large roadblocks that hindered the making of FIT ADV?
The great thing about innovation is — it’s a lot of what you’ll hear athletes talk about — you’ve got to fail to move forward. Got to do it fast. As we’re working through the process, we don’t look at those things as blocks. Because, actually, the process or the road to an innovation is long and it’s windy. It’s not a straight shot to innovation. What we love about that windy road, and the forks in those roads, is that depending on which one we take, we’re going to potentially get somewhere that we didn’t expect was there. And that’s really where the magic and innovation happens. We don’t allow our minds to dictate where the end is; we allow the experience to guide us to where that journey is, and that’s where we find the rich innovations that are waiting for us.
As someone who’s been with the company for over 28 years, how does it feel to witness this innovation happen before your eyes?
I feel like I can exhale, right? There’s a lot of meetings, there’s a lot of experiences with athletes, and in the chambers, and testing — you have the highs and the lows of the experience. But what keeps us focused and centered is knowing that we’re going to figure this out. Because we do, Nike always figures it out. We’ve got to deliver this for this athlete, it’s just when is it going to happen? Because, like I said, the journey isn’t as straightforward as you think. But when it does finally click, and everybody is there — you know, our creative partners, our brand, whoever — it’s a very fulfilling moment. More importantly, for the athlete, that’s when we win.
Nur Abbas, Design Director of Men’s Lifestyle Apparel, prefers that ACG move forward than stick to the past. And while he understands the dedicated following the brand has amassed, Abbas would rather not replicate the years gone by; instead, he’ll approach the new generation of pieces with the same mindset as his predecessors. Below, the director talks the ACG Legacy, who he thinks is the current audience of the sub-label, and much more — read our conversation below.
ACG has had a really huge moment on social media thanks to the rise of Gorpcore and aesthetics of that nature. And with that, older pieces have become extremely coveted. Are you keeping in mind both the audience who loves those pieces and those pieces specifically when designing for current collections?
Yeah, absolutely. The heritage of ACG, it’s a lot to live up to. For us, it’s important that we live up to that legacy by approaching it in the same way the designers did before us, which was trying to use the pinnacle of innovation, give each piece purpose and design in the best way possible, to allow people to get into the outdoors, and to form well and to be comfortable. So in that sense, you know, some of the pieces might not look exactly the same as what was there, but, hopefully, we’re approaching it in the same way.
Especially when it comes to FIT, that was something that debuted in ACG all that time ago. It’s amazing to work and look at the next step of it as much as we we look back at ACG and make sure that we’re kind of grounded in that. We’re kind of standing on the shoulders of giants in that sense. We’re also looking towards the future: how we can produce the best possible for the customer right now. And hopefully, in 30 years time, people will be looking back at the things we’re doing now in the same way as some other people look back at the heritage of ACG currently.
More recently, ACG has seen these large aesthetic shifts. We saw Errolson Hugh take over briefly and then a return to more retro form soon after. With that, I believe the audience has slowly begun to change — who do you think is the core demographic today?
Hopefully we’re gonna capture a lot of people. One of the things I love to see is people wearing ACG and getting into the outdoors. And that’s maybe a big shift that we’ve seen that people have taken the message on. And something like FIT ADV is that kind of standard, or the mark on the garment that’s going to allow people to know that this is going to work, that we’ve put the consideration in there. You can get out into the outdoors, into the wilderness, and you can trust this product; you can trust the level of consideration, innovation, and the technology that’s going into the products. That’s going to continue to allow more people to get into the outdoors and know — whoever you are, whatever background it is — you can trust it and get out there. Hopefully, that’s the people we’re gonna reach.
I noticed that there were a little under 10 FIT ADV pieces in the upcoming ACG collection. Are there plans of expanding on that in the near future?
Oh, for sure. When when I think about fit ADV, it’s like, “oh, is it only just coming out now?” Because we’ve been thinking about it for so long. It’s already very present in our minds for many years. So yeah, there’s a roadmap of many things to come in. I wish I could share it all right now, but it’s gonna come out eventually. I’m certainly working to build upon all the innovation and the technology that you’re seeing now.