Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the Nike Air Max 1 shoe, and to celebrate, the brand unleashed 24 hours of marketing dubbed "Air Max Day." Among the efforts were pop-up shops called "sneakeasies," one of which exhibited a new ad campaign for Nike.
But the creatives behind these print ads aren't from Wieden + Kennedy—because the ads aren't meant to sell shoes. Instead, artists Ava Nirui and Alex Lee worked with the brand to fashion a spoof campaign that pokes fun of society and pays homage to old-school Nike creative.
The shoes were revealed in an exhibition at the sneakeasy, located in New York, and the ads were first published in Dazed magazine, then picked up by sneakerhead and fashion blogs. Each one features a photo of a reimagined Nike Air Max shoe and copy that mimics the same bold font from the 1990s print campaigns. In an interview with Dazed, Nirui revealed that they'd been in talks with Nike for a year on this project.
"Ava and I share a sense of dark humor—and a commitment to not taking anything too seriously," Lee told Dazed magazine. "After all, when you boil it down to its elements, it's a bunch of Nike sneakers. Even when working on the fake ads, we wanted to keep things punchy and fun, like classic Air Max ads."
Take, for example, the "Nike Food Processair," AKA the "self-defense shoe." It’s an Air Max 97 wrapped in barbed wire, pierced with nails and stabbed with razor blades. The copy reads, "For Your Health. NIKE FOOD PROCESSAIR: It’s like that game fruit ninja, but in real life and with your feet—chop up ingredients for smoothies, dips, stews, sauces—the possibilities are endless. And, you’ll burn a bunch of calories because it’s really difficult."
As to what that grim messaging means, Nirui remained coy, saying, "Of course, some of our pieces allude to something that may be happening in the world right now, but we don't believe in shoving our opinions down people's throats. All the messaging is super cryptic. If you get it, you get it and if you don't, move on."
In the past, Nirui's art has been unsolicited by brands. She's dressed "The Simpsons" family in Gucci and fashioned Comme des Garcons apparel out of a Champion sweatshirt. The last time she teamed up with Lee, the pair recreated gender-fluid runway fashions on Barbies. Whatever the project, it's typically done tongue-in-cheek.
Nike did not return calls for comment.