The story of the Nike x Tom Sachs Poncho is a reminder that good solutions take time to solidify. The product’s simplicity is deceiving. Its shapeshifting nature was perfected over the course of four years, dozens of prototypes, countless tests and innumerable hacks.

The poncho began life in 2015 as one output of a design challenge to consider transforming apparel, and was undertaken by Jarrett Reynolds, Nike's senior design director for apparel special projects, and others. Reynolds was initially intrigued by the idea of a slimline pack complete with a quick-deploy poncho that pulled swiftly from its carry and could be easily repacked after use.

"We used a tear-away zipper for the first incarnation. It allowed for the explosion — the forceful billowing that allowed the wearer to quickly get into the poncho — but it was really difficult to set up," says Reynolds.

A collection of prototypes, including one made shortly after Sachs had an "ah-ha" moment on December 24, 2017.

Despite its finicky nature, this prototype led to eight or nine other concepts, over the course of two years, each helping show proof of concept but never quite clicking, so Reynolds shared the poncho via video to a frequent Nike collaborator, Tom Sachs.

“He was like, ‘We've got to do something with this.’ I was stoked because Tom and his team are problem-solvers, they look at things from a different perspective than we do and that’s what we needed,” says Reynolds. From there, the project blossomed into a collaborative, inventive exercise with the artist.  

Channeling all this into a finished NIKECRAFT product requires a healthy push-pull. Transparency is critical, as is sharing the underpinnings of how things work. The ingenuity of the thinking is solidified with a NIKECRAFT first: The poncho’s mechanics are patent pending.

The poncho, which is the highlight of the NIKECRAFT Transitions collection (inclusive of the Mars Yard Overshoe and the previously mentioned down short), incorporates materials ranging from Dyneema®️ (the same super-strong fiber used on the Mars Yard Overshoe) for the trinity case behind the poncho, to those ceramic beads created by Sachs’ studio. A Fidlock buckle ensures ease of use for the waist strap, and the poncho itself was prepared from a three-layer waterproof and breathable fabric that allowed for minimal size with maximum coverage. Bold printing on the back of the garment proudly announces the location of manufacture: Vietnam.

“The ideas in this collection — transparency of materials and of construction — are very well reflected, and I'm really honored by this body of work. They have the same value and integrity of the sculptures that I make in the studio,” says Sachs.

And, while the products certainly could be displayed, Sachs believes strongly that they should not only be used, but also serve as an impetus to dig in and learn more. More about doing, about imagining and, above all, about process.

The apparel elements of the NIKECRAFT Transitions collection launch April 27 in Japan to coincide with Sachs' "Tea Ceremony" exhibition at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery. A global release will follow. 

EXPLODING PONCHO - @Nike EXPLODING PONCHO - @Nike Reviewed by FADED4U on August 30, 2020 Rating: 5

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