The Nike Dunk Hi Premium with Laser Substraits
Originally used in industries such as car manufacturing, electronics and furniture texturing, laser technology has been a tool in Nike’s shoe design headquarters for years. But it was in 2003 that Nike Designer Mark Smith pioneered the use of lasers for decorating leather, fine-tuning the process to a level that allowed incredibly detailed designs to be burned into Nike products. It wasn’t long before famed footwear like the Cortez, Jordan and AF1 were etched with intricate, tattoo / graffiti graphics, models that are still coveted by sneaker collectors around the world. But laser-etched leather had a design limitation: no matter what the upper’s colorway was, the burned-out designs were always brown, leather’s interior color.
Called a “substrait,” Jesse Leyva’s team wondered if they could change this interior color by changing materials. The solution was found by using synthetic materials. The Nike Sportswear Dunk Premium uses black synthetic material with various colored interiors to achieve this multi-colored substrait effect. Each panel of the shoe contains a different color which, when the top layer is carefully etched away, is revealed in high contrast by the laser. This season, the motif is the octagon—a symbol chosen by Nike’s design team to represent the summer games in Beijing and to honor the power of the number eight in Chinese culture. A byproduct of using synthetics in the Nike Dunk upper is a reduction in the shoe’s overall weight, since leather is heavier by nature than its man-made alternative. Along with a black body that allows the colorful shapes to pop visually, a patent leather swoosh and highly perforated vamp are premium design accents that give the sneaker a stealthy, yet sophisticated air.