Circular sneakers? Nike launches refurbished sneaker program

April 29, 2021

So we’ve been buying refurbished phones for a while, we’ve bought second hand furniture and I’m sure theres a lot of people out there that have bought second hand clothes including sneakers too. None of this is particularly but the term refurbished into todays increasingly conscious society is becoming a buzz word. In the fashion space, second hand is not new or novel, but accepting it and owning it is. Brands have been coming under increased scrutiny for sustainability and circularity, Burberry have been known to destroy clothes that get returned so they don’t end up on the secondary market and damage their new sales, meanwhile Patagonia encourage reuse and repair. 

Now, Nike want in on the action — and not with one of ranges, I’m not talking about space hippies, which is and incredible project in itself. I’m talking about Nikes all new, refurbished program. Refurbished sneakers.

Nike - refurbished

So what is it?

As part of Nikes ongoing “move to zero” campaign, a campaign (well its a mission statement, but also a campaign) is NIKE’s journey towards zero carbon and zero waste to help protect the future of sport.

Nike have been making big waves in how they source and manufacture materials, using sustainable cotton, recycled nylon, plastics etc. Their space hippie shoes are incredible, Space Hippie's Flyknit yarn is made from 85–90% recycled content, including plastic bottles, t-shirts and post-industrial scraps. They look awesome and signalled a new change in ethos and output for the company renowned for making the worlds best sports shoes.

Nike refurbished is an extension of this, and an interesting one.  NIKE refurbished claims to extend the life of eligible products by taking like-new, gently worn, and slightly imperfect kicks, refurbishing them by hand, and offering them to you at select nike factory, nike unite, and nike community stores.

Much like we do at reboxed with our phones, the shoes get graded by their condition “like new”, gently worn” or “cosmetically flawed”

Nike - Space Hippie

Branding and design 

Everything about Nikes branding and design has literally forever been A+. Nothing short of stellar. The branding around their sustainability efforts is no different. The striking greens, clean and clear use of font “X” balances an overall technical feel of reuse and utility. It feels right. It’s something creatively i strived for with our TechCheck® branding, and i even used the same cutting mat as a backdrop. Maybe i was a designer for nike in a different universe. 

I certainly drew inspiration from Nikes labels and how they balance the technical aspect of their information with bold typography and clearly organised information.

One thing they do well in their photography is use texture. The materials broken down look great and really communicate the refurbished feel I’d associate with nike and sneaker repair. 

The move to zero logo bold, futuristic and on trend despite still using futura, a font they’ve used for decades. Cutting the top and bottom of the typeface has given it a new meaning and the geometric logo made of nike ticks is not immediately obvious, but effective. The visuals, which are not a departure from Nikes incredible design aesthetic tie in perfectly to the company’s purpose and message. The use of chevrons takes meaning from the industrial plants that not only make waste, but can take waste too. Agency Accept&Proceed have done a stellar job creating cohesion throughout the visual identity.

Gently worn 

Nike says that their refurbished process will use tools to make shoes that are “like new,” those that have only had a couple of wears, ” or “gently worn” merchandise as close to new condition as possible,”. What they actually state is that the item must be returned in a 60 day window. Once they’re placed back on store shelves, items will be marked with information about the renewed shoes, and they will be priced based on style and condition.

What there isn’t too much detail about is the process itself. I’d like to understand a bit more about the tools and process to restore the shoes. It comes across as a bit of a clean with a brush and resell vibe. Maybe they have a special brush or cleaning chemicals that do a specific job?

I understand the “60 day window” but feel it slightly undermines the process and project. What this does, is attempt to limit the scope of damage, but in all actuality anything can happen to a sneaker in 60 days. I believe they would have been better focusing on the criteria for condition rather than the time frame for return. This, with the lack of understanding on the process itself leave me a bit sceptical. Are nike really trying to limit waste or claw back profits?

What is great about the program is that shoes that don’t make the grade form their “grind” program, which destroys the product but utilises the waste for other means, such as rubber for gym flooring etc.

Purpose or profit?

We know the secondary market for sneakers is worth billions, and nike are missing out big time on some of that action. I have no problem with the claw back of profits, but it doesn’t need to be dressed up as a sustainability campaign. In general, i actually think the refurbished program makes a lot of sense, its good for the planet and the consumer. I would totally buy a pair of refurbished Nikes with one or two defects and save the money. The idea that millions of pairs get thrown away for minor imperfections or defects each year is crazy, and I’d happily pay cut price for a pair.

Since being in the refurbished phone space, I’ve witnessed first hand the benefits of refurbishment and recycling. I’m generally on board with this nike thing, i love the brand and their move towards sustainability.

The refurbished revolution is certainly here 

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