German footwear firm Solebox and fashion designer Acronym have partnered with a team of Berlin-based creatives to come up with a novel range of downloadable content (DLC) for Nike trainers.
Debuted at the Solebox-hosted ACRONYM Dynamics Lab event, these removable heel clips are designed to be 3D printed and fitted to special edition Nike Blazer Lows, as a means of providing them with a personalized visual flourish.
Since the firm’s ten original DLC models were showcased last month, makers have gone on to come up with a range of other distinctive designs, with many taking inspiration from cultural touchstones such as Evangelion and Death Stranding.
Introducing ‘DLC’ for trainers
Held in early February, ACRONYM’s Dynamics Lab workshop was organized by its Founder Errolson Hugh, who, having struck a deal with Nike to collaborate on a footwear collection, was seeking out ways of customizing their new collection.
At the event, a group of ten creatives managed to dream up several unique heel clip designs for Hugh’s NIKE X ACRONYM range, which were then 3D printed in TPU and showcased at a special exhibit on February 10, 2022. Designed to be a ‘reinterpretation’ of Nike’s Blazer Lows, the sneakers’ swappable accessories are said to be inspired by ‘Bōsōzoku,’ a Japanese motorcycle-customizing subculture.
As a result, each NIKE X ACRONYM shoe doesn’t just feature custom logos across their tongue, liner and heel, but a range of rear-mounted add-ons. Marketed as sneaker ‘DLC,’ that offers “a futuristic take on one of Nike’s esteemed heritage looks,” these fresh heel prints have now been made free to download, but predictably, the maker community has also added to these with designs of their own.
Sneaker DLC: the makers respond
Typically of the 3D printing community, makers have taken Acronym’s idea and ran with it, in a way that has yielded a variety of conceptual designs that are bound to draw some attention to whoever’s wearing them. Take Art Director les83machines’ Evangelion-inspired designs, for instance. The creative’s models feature bold, complex, sharply-pointed layouts, that are reminiscent of the show’s characters.
Elsewhere, toy designer nixon has also managed to create a design featuring a ‘bridge baby’ from the popular video game Death Stranding. In the game, the seven-month-old foetuses are used as a connection between the world of the living and the dead, and they’ve become a popular icon among fans, even making a cameo in Cyberpunk 2077.
Hugh himself has also popped up on Instagram to share images from the launch of his new footwear range, which he calls “DLC for your Blazers, DLC for your brain.” Thankfully, the creative has already promised that the project “won’t be the last” of its kind that he takes part in, so it could well be the case that we see further iterations from Acronym as well.
Can I buy a pair of NIKE X ACRONYMs?
According to Youtuber This Is Antwon, who has already got his hands on a pair of the new sneakers, they can now be bought for around $140. In his review, the footwear and fashion vlogger complemented the upmarket look and feel of the shoes, particularly the contrast colored laces and heel blocks that came with them, although he suggested that wear and tear makes constant switching inadvisable.
Given the status enjoyed by the original Blazer Lows in the skating community, Antwon also took them on a ‘skate-test,’ in which he found that their relatively good value may come at the cost of sole durability. That being said, he was keen to point out that Acronym’s shoe has added utility to a sportswear classic in a way that “Nike would never do itself,” and its heel gives it “great long-term appeal.”
“We’ve already seen some really really cool iterations and ideas as to what you can do here, and that’s only going to increase with time,” said This is Antwon in his video. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what people manage to come up with, to modify and customize. I think it’s awesome that what Acronym has done here, is not just build a product you can buy, but a platform for your creativity.”
“THE SKY’S THE LIMIT, WITH WHAT YOU COULD ACHIEVE WITH THIS.”
Those looking to get creative with a pair of NIKE X ACRONYMs, can either access one of the designs developed at the ACRONYM Dynamics Lab event here, download les83machines’ Evangelion-inspired design here or come up with a style entirely of their own.
Innovative 3D printed footwear
Where 3D printing has been used to realize various innovative footwear designs in the past, it tends to have been deployed by manufacturers rather than makers themselves. German sportswear giant Adidas, for instance, continues to work with Carbon to innovate upon its 3D printed ‘4DFWD’ midsole, which in turn, was incorporated into the shoes worn by many athletes at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Likewise, CRP Technology has deployed its 3D printing capabilities and Windform SP carbon fiber material to create a unique athletics track shoe. Working with Venetian middle-distance runner Miro Buroni in October 2021, the firm was able to LPBF 3D print the ‘Pleko’ spike shoe in a single-piece, including its outsole, midsole and pins.
Last summer, in a similar, albeit less sporty application, Hush Puppies also agreed to incorporate Voxel8 3D printed insoles into its upcoming designer footwear range. By adopting additive manufacturing, the firm anticipated at the time being able to not only simplify its production workflow, but accelerate the products’ time to market.