Typically age reduces the luster and value of most products. But what if a footwear design could become more beautiful and valuable over time, like vintage cars or fine wine?
This week Nike is releasing the NSW Air Max 1 VT Sneaker Pack, a footwear design concept that is intended to look better with age.
The bottom half of the upper is made with Vachetta (meaning small cow in Italian) leather, which is another name for vegetable tanned leather. Although veg. tanned leather will stain more easily (even with water), over time however it will also darken naturally, turning a rich, deep amber colour, creating new contrasts to the rest of the shoe.
The darkening happens because the oils in the leather oxidize with contact to air and sunlight. The aged dark colouring that results is known as “Patina”. Compare the 2 images below to get a idea of the change in colour that will happen to the upper over time. Notice the increased pop of the coloured part on the upper with more patina, re-energizing and adding value to the older upper.
Patina is a very sought after quality in luxury leather products because it implies historical value and quality. Many Louis Vuitton collectors seek out darker leather designs and there are even internet forums dedicated as to how to darken the lightly pigmented LV vegetable tanned leather.
The recent trend in “Crafted” product has also promoted this distinguished leather finish.
Darkening leather is also intrinsic to Mexican Huarache Footwear, a craft that uses only veg. tanned leathers and that I research and promote on Huarache Blog (small plug). Below is a pair of new úkata “Cien Clavos” Huaraches and a close up of a worn pair which has developed a dark honey patina after only a few months of wear.
Having also posted about “Heirloom Design” and the some of the environmental impact of Chrome Tanned leather, the idea of a less disposable, veg. tanned sneaker that gets better with age is very interesting, timely and relevant.
Lets wait and see if a year from now the Nike Air Max 1 VT looks better with age?