Postcards / Travel

Walking on Air – Kitty Callaghan sends postcards from Paris for the official Nike Air Summit

serena williams on stage at the nike air summit in paris wearing nike

There’s a chance you have heard some buzz about Nike’s arrival in Paris last week – and for good reason. The energy on the ground was exciting, fresh and optimistic. Nike on Air at its zenith was a celebration of the past, present and future of the brand. We had the chance to speak to Sam Kerr, skateboarder Chloe Covell, Nike team members Juliana Sagat and Tanya Hvizdak – all playing a part in the exciting chapter that lays ahead for Nike.

The week started when I was met by Swoosh–dusted Ladurée treats in my room at one of the most beloved hotels on the left bank, Hotel Lutetia. With an exciting itinerary ahead of me, I took the chance to make a quick visit to the sauna, hammam and ice bath in the incredible Akasha spa – each step of the process feeling like a great choice after a long-haul flight.

We ate, dined (note – these are separate activities with thanks to snacks between mealtimes) and ran across the city over four magical days. The balance of eating my way through Paris and making time for movement in between is my idea of a dream trip. A favourite meal was lunch at Girafe Restaurant, overlooking the Eiffel tower.

Another highlight was our run, which mapped the first 5km of the Marathon that Eliud Kipchoge will complete in August, which was a great chance to meet some more of the Nike team and felt like a nice change, as I usually run alone. I made some friends, had some laughs along the way, and even got to have a croissant at the finish line. Certainly, a glow up from the usual 5km I am used to.

Nike On Air was held in the original Paris Stock Exchange – Palais Brongniart, built by Napoleon in the 1820’s. Welcoming us on the historical steps aside towering tangerine sculptures of Nike Ambassadors was Nike VP and Chief of Innovation, John Hoke. Our focus was soon shifted to a room mapping the conception and genealogy of Nike Air, the technology that has carried Nike’s athletes forward for almost 50 years. Curating this space to include most prototypes from the deep archives of Nike’s Portland HQ had its challenges according to Hoke – there were so many to locate. He also pointed out that some of the shoes still had residue and dirt on the soles from the moments of glory that put these, and the stars wearing them in the history books.

As an unfixed medium, Nike Air is a constant process of reinvention. In the current wave of ever evolving innovation, some of the brand's previously wildest held fantasies are not only possible but becoming a reality. Some of those milestones were present in the showcase of new apparel and technology last week – others are yet to launch and will be a huge turning point in the brand’s story. With thanks to computational design, AI engines and rapid prototyping, Nike’s Innovation team can study details that were imperceptible just a few short years ago.

Stepping into a room showcasing some of the footwear and team kits that will be worn as official uniforms for the Paris 2024 Olympics, it’s clear to see that this level of innovation and evolution is advancing Nike in unprecedented ways. For example, the Pegasus Premium running shoe. It’s the first of its kind to feature a full length Zoom Air Package. The advancements in technology have also seen Nike create their most lightweight running shoe in the Alphafly, which will no doubt make quite the appearance later this year.

With so much talk of on field performance, our next stop to see Nike Football legend and French National Team Captain Kylian Mbappé in action did not disappoint. Playing his last home game for Paris Saint Germain – his team for the last 6 years, there was a certain nostalgia in the air that softened the tension between two of the best teams in the league – PSG and Barcelona. Although Barcelona defeated Saint Germain 3 – 2, it was a very exciting game with many goals scored and you can’t ask for more than that when watching it live. There is a bit of a theory that in modern Football, more goals and penalties are being scored across most professional leagues than ever. Seeing Mbappé glide in his Nike Mercurial Superfly’s, you have to wonder if the shoe has something do with these incredible records that athletes across all codes seem to be smashing year on year.

Speaking to Tanya Hvizdak, VP of Women’s Global Sports Marketing at Nike and someone who has worked for the brand for 20 years – it’s easy to understand why these advancements in technology are important at such an exciting, pivotal time in sport. In particular, for women who will be competing at the games this year. “I feel very fortunate in my seat to work with the incredible portfolio that we have. We as a brand have the most incredible female athletes. I think that recently, as we have stood up the think tank and elevated our female athletes in an even more meaningful way, what they represent for us has been absolutely remarkable. You think about Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, coming into her last Olympics – what she has influenced from a maternity perspective, and as a Mum. You think about a young Sky Brown, we wants to make sure that her voice for her generation is heard. Us as a brand, providing that platform – I would say this moment in time is what I am most proud of.”

Seeing the likes of Price and countless other Nike athletes on stage at the official Nike On Air show later in the week, Hvidzdak’s delight at the new heights these stars are reaching thanks to modern innovation was laid bare. During a 30-minute intimate presentation watched by guests such as Travis Scott and Ronaldinho, a multitude of stars unveiled the official uniforms and exciting collaborations between Nike and the likes of Martine Rose, Bode and Jacquemus. The soundtrack, featuring a powerful and dynamic sermon of words from Serena Williams, served as an incredible foundation to the stars on stage such as Eliud Kipchoge, Sha'Carri Richardson, Anna Cockrell, Kerolin Nicoli and of course, our very own Sam Kerr.

The moment climaxed when Serena herself joined the ambassadors from behind a curtain at the end of the showcase to a very loud applause. It was an electrifying way to end what was a very special week with Nike. I had one question on my mind after seeing Sam up there on the stage though – does that mean she might be in with a chance to play for Australia in Paris in July? We will have to wait to find out. When I spoke to her earlier in the week about whether she has a personal mantra or advice she tells herself when she must do hard things, it seemed her outlook is to take things one day at a time. “I don’t know about a mantra, but I feel like I’m a very go with the flow, laid back, relaxed person. What will be will be, really”. Here’s hoping.


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