In the early 2000s as sneaker culture begin to rise to its then zenith, Nike was at the forefront catapulting the movement by way of collaboration. In a genius stroke that brought both excitement and exclusivity to an exponentially expanding genre, Nike utilized working relationships with premiere stockists in a way no others before them had thought to do. Partnering with Supreme and Stussy to breathe life into shared stories, the chosen voice was suede, leather, and rubber soles.
Nike first partnered with California-based Stussy in 2000, producing two limited edition variations of the Air Huarache LE. The European-only release littered the shelves of Stussy’s London shop, spawning annual releases thereafter. In the years that would follow, Nike x Stussy would strengthen the collaborative movement with expressive iterations of the Nike Blazer, Dunk High, and the Air Huarache Light.
Ultimately, though, it would be the famous skate shop in New York City that truly set the world of collaboration ablaze forever and for the better.
Supreme, whose releases arguably created the behavioral traits that can affectionately be described as the “hypebeast,” first aligned with Nike in 2002 to debut the time-honored Supreme x Nike Dunk Low Pro SB. The rendering was Supreme’s take on the monumental Air Jordan III; with two potent executions rendered in Nike’s famed elephant print. But despite what many would think today, hype didn’t initially surround the release, as then sneaker culture certainly wasn’t what it is today. The shoes, over the years, would became an icon, scripting the tale of Nike x Supreme that only grew larger with each subsequent release. Their union now undoubtedly stands as the most sought after in sneaker culture, even above that of retro Air Jordans.
But Nike collaborations don’t simply end with adoring retail partnerships. The modernizing of the collaboration has taken to film, with sneaker royalty at the helm of innovation and creative dexterity.
Laika, the stop-motion animation studio responsible for clever and endearing pictures like Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls and now //Kubo and the Two Strings// has taken Nike collaborations to heights previously unfathomed. Travis Knight, CEO of Laika and son of recently retired sneaker legend and Nike co-founder Phil Knight, has reimagined the collaboration with cast and character.
Each of the company's films feature a special edition Nike collaboration, all produced in limited numbers and creatively centered around the pictures’ animated lead(s). This tightly woven relationship between Laika and Nike has birthed true collaborative greatness, which begins with foundational resourcefulness, and in a more literal sense, //Coraline//.
Outfitting the Nike Dunk High in denim and canvas fabrication alongside hand stitching at the midsection, the film’s semi-central characters – the cat and mouse - are perched atop the shoes’ tongues expressing playful aesthetics matched with precise execution. Only 1,015 pairs were produced, with a small percentage of those pairs coupled with movie props and special edition packaging. This release forcefully set the tone for a Nike Air Foamposite One //ParaNorman// follow-up - largely the most visible release of this trio and easily the fan favorite.
A celebrated 90’s style famously donned by basketball great Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, this Foamposite One - executed predominately in black and electric green to symbolize its central figure who carries the ability to speak to the dead – was released in less than 1,000 pairs, none of which found their way to retailers. Instead, the shoes were up for purchase via eBay charity auction. They drew large numbers and currently go for upwards of $6,000 on eBay. To put that in proper perspective, retail pricing for the Foamposite One is $230. This exponential increase in value exposes the viability of these collaborations, especially those from Laika.
The Boxtrolls x Nike Roshe Run also draws increased value on the secondary market. Currently appraised at nearly nine times the Roshe Run’s retail haul, Laika has creatively and strategically found the formula for triumph in this realm of partnering projects.
Collaborations reign trustiest in singularity. The rarer the find - often times - the greater the value. By building hype within the community, taking creative liberties, and keeping the releases limited, Laika and Nike have masterfully created an ongoing buzz surrounding their collaborations. And with the Kubo and the Two Strings sneakers forthcoming, the hype will only grow stronger, touch the untapped, and tell stories through sneakers that can only be rivaled by their silver screen counterparts.
Motion graphics artist, Belinda Rodriguez, has been a sneaker collector since she was in high school, and a Laika superfan since the release of Coraline. Here she tells us about the moment her two passions collided.
How many pairs of sneakers do you have? Around 70 pairs.
What are your everyday shoes? My go-tos are Puma classics and Vans. But I’ve been collecting Air Jordans since I was in high school. As soon as one pair gets dirty, I buy a new pair. I like my sneakers to be clean. And I never throw them away, no matter how worn-in they get.
Are there any pairs you buy strictly for your collection, or do you wear all of them? I always wear them a couple times and then as soon as I feel like they’re getting dirty, I won’t wear them anymore. I’ll clean them up and then put them away to store in my collection.
Do you have a favorite pair? My favorite sneakers, besides my Coralines? Every time I buy a new pair of Jordans, it changes! Right now, I’d say the ones I’m wearing right now! They’re the Air Jordan 12 pair they call the “Flu Game.” I also love the Air Jordan 12 “Taxis.”
Speaking of your Coralines, how did you become a fan of Laika? I’ve always been a fan of stop-motion animation, ever since The Nightmare Before Christmas. The way stop-motion works frame-by-frame, and then the end movie is so seamless - I think it’s crazy. In school my friends and I would nerd out about it, we’d have stop-motion projects and we just loved it. It has such a great quality to it. We went to see Coraline when it came out and I’ve loved it since then. I watch Coraline all the time.
How did you find out about the Laika x Nike sneaker collaboration? I found out from a friend who is also a sneaker collector. He had applied and said I should try, too, so he told me what to do. After watching Coraline I had to stay and wait for the secret word after the movie. After the movie was done and after all the credits rolled, the codeword popped up and it was “jerkwad.” I ran out of the theater and in the parking lot I went to the website and entered the codeword. I had to answer a bunch of questions. After that I picked my size and it said that not everyone would win a pair but maybe I’d be a lucky one! So I kind of forgot all about it and then about eight weeks later I got this package in the mail and I didn’t know what it was. I opened it and saw the Nike logo on the box and it was the shoes! It was the Coraline Dunks.
What did you do? I looked at the sole and I thought it could glow in the dark, so I was holding it up to the lamp and the sun and then was testing them in the dark. I only wore them once and then I put them away to keep them nice. I’m going to try to get the Kubo sneakers now, too. You have to kind of be hardcore to get these shoes!