Some of the most sustainable practices have been around since ancient times. Inspired by the origins of natural dyes, three Nike designers began exploring the possibilities of plant-based pigments. Their quest: To find a more sustainable approach to creating beautiful, expressive colors.
A team of women designers took on the challenge of sustainable color, starting with exploratory trips to the Columbia River Gorge, just a short drive from Nike World Headquarters outside of Portland, Oregon. There, the team experimented with natural dye techniques, using local berries and roots to color different fabrics.
Two years of research and experiments resulted in the Nike Plant Color Collection, a women’s-exclusive, featuring the Nike Air Max 95 and Nike Blazer Low. Over the two years of research, the team turned an idea of using plants to dye products in small quantities into something that could be done at full scale for thousands of pairs. Each of these shoes demonstrates how we’re designing for performance and sustainability without compromising on style.
Our commitment to sustainable products goes far beyond footwear or just this collection. 75% of Nike products contain some recycled materials and for the past six years, Nike has led the industry in using recycled polyester.
While plant-based dyes do not solve every challenge in sustainable design, they are an exciting alternative that are already inspiring further experimentation Plant-based dyes reduce the amount of particles in wastewater. Additionally, plant-based dyes don’t have to be heated to high temperatures, and don’t require as much processing time as some synthetic dyes, which saves energy and helps reduce emissions.
Two years of exploration into plant-based dyes has delivered a beautiful aesthetic and inspired a more mindful approach to product design and creation. The Plant Color Collection collection isn’t the end of this journey, but a call to keep going.
We’ll continue drawing inspiration from the world around us. And we’ll continue designing for a beautifully sustainable future.