NAVIGATION PACK

NAVIGATION PACK

15 YEARS OF NIKE SB & 20 YEARS OF STAPLE

15 YEARS OF NIKE SB & 20 YEARS OF STAPLE

Nike embraces collaborators who elevate product and technology by telling their own story. Staple came from humble beginnings to become one of the eminent names in streetwear and design. 

 

Founded by Jeff Ng (AKA Jeffstaple) in 1997, the New York design studio is impossible to pin down to one thing. Before the days of everyone putting a dozen specialties on their social media profiles, Staple really did do it all. Jeff and his studio have made album covers, magazines, a fashion line that began from a mere dozen tees silkscreened at Parsons School of Design, and even opened Reed Space in 2001, one of New York’s premier destinations for street culture.

 

In 1999, Staple found itself tasked with redesigning the look of The Fader Magazine, which had just put out its first issue. Having gone to journalism school, Jeff also offered up his services on editorials. Deeply knowledgeable about all things sneakers, he pitched a story idea to get to the bottom of a question that had been on his mind for years: Why was Japan getting the best and most limited sneaker releases? 

You physically had to fly to Japan to get a pair of Japan-only kicks — back then, the internet couldn’t do all the work for you in tracking them down.

 

“The guys in Tokyo would put a pair in one store and say, ‘Well, we’re not sure if they’ll sell well, and if they do, maybe we put them in more stores.’ It was incubating in such an innocent way,” Staple says. 

 

Overwhelmed by his passion for footwear and ability to tackle just about any creative pursuit, Nike recognized the obvious about Jeff and his brand. They enlisted Staple to create a collection of shoes that would commemorate the worldwide endeavor of sneaker collecting, and the hub cities for sneaker heads. 

Nike embraces collaborators who elevate product and technology by telling their own story. Staple came from humble beginnings to become one of the eminent names in streetwear and design. 

 

Founded by Jeff Ng (AKA Jeffstaple) in 1997, the New York design studio is impossible to pin down to one thing. Before the days of everyone putting a dozen specialties on their social media profiles, Staple really did do it all. Jeff and his studio have made album covers, magazines, a fashion line that began from a mere dozen tees silkscreened at Parsons School of Design, and even opened Reed Space in 2001, one of New York’s premier destinations for street culture.

 

In 1999, Staple found itself tasked with redesigning the look of The Fader Magazine, which had just put out its first issue. Having gone to journalism school, Jeff also offered up his services on editorials. Deeply knowledgeable about all things sneakers, he pitched a story idea to get to the bottom of a question that had been on his mind for years: Why was Japan getting the best and most limited sneaker releases? 

You physically had to fly to Japan to get a pair of Japan-only kicks — back then, the internet couldn’t do all the work for you in tracking them down.

 

“The guys in Tokyo would put a pair in one store and say, ‘Well, we’re not sure if they’ll sell well, and if they do, maybe we put them in more stores.’ It was incubating in such an innocent way,” Staple says. 

 

Overwhelmed by his passion for footwear and ability to tackle just about any creative pursuit, Nike recognized the obvious about Jeff and his brand. They enlisted Staple to create a collection of shoes that would commemorate the worldwide endeavor of sneaker collecting, and the hub cities for sneaker heads. 

Laser engraving technology was still new at the time, and Staple knew what to do. The brand came back to Nike with an Air Shox, an Air Burst and an Air Max 90, all with different engravings in their leather. London’s shoe had the jet stream currents around the U.K., New York’s had the Manhattan city grid, and Tokyo’s had the sea currents around Japan — an air, land and sea tribute to the global epicenters of the sneaker world. It would be dubbed, The Navigation Pack.

 

What came next lives in infamy. Nike SB was celebrating the Dunk’s twentieth birthday. Asked to represent his home on a piece of footwear again, Jeff knew nothing speaks to the hustle of New York like a pigeon — the city’s gritty survivalists that make their presence felt against all odds. The Pigeon Dunk Low was born. 

 

The release day caused a frenzy in front of Staple’s Reed Space store, with kids being escorted straight into cabs after they bought the shoes. News cameras showed up. The next day, on the front page of newspapers, the world learned that yes, there is such a thing as collecting sneakers and yes, the people who do it are real crazy about it. Hype hit the mainstream. 

 

Since then, Nike and Staple have continued their collaborations in a myriad of ways. This includes forward-thinking footwear designs, like the 2006 Nordic Pack released for the 2006 Olympics, to commissioning the Nike N.R.F. basketball league, even to helping Nike with its Considered initiative, which is a line of the world’s first fully biodegradable shoes. 

 

Staple’s Pigeon made a brief cameo on Nike SB’s What the Dunk in 2007, but has otherwise been limited to collectors unwilling to part ways with such a coveted piece of sneaker history. That is, until now, when Staple’s Black Pigeon Dunk Low will celebrate 15 years of Nike SB, and 20 years of Staple.

Laser engraving technology was still new at the time, and Staple knew what to do. The brand came back to Nike with an Air Shox, an Air Burst and an Air Max 90, all with different engravings in their leather. London’s shoe had the jet stream currents around the U.K., New York’s had the Manhattan city grid, and Tokyo’s had the sea currents around Japan — an air, land and sea tribute to the global epicenters of the sneaker world. It would be dubbed, The Navigation Pack.

 

What came next lives in infamy. Nike SB was celebrating the Dunk’s twentieth birthday. Asked to represent his home on a piece of footwear again, Jeff knew nothing speaks to the hustle of New York like a pigeon — the city’s gritty survivalists that make their presence felt against all odds. The Pigeon Dunk Low was born. 

 

The release day caused a frenzy in front of Staple’s Reed Space store, with kids being escorted straight into cabs after they bought the shoes. News cameras showed up. The next day, on the front page of newspapers, the world learned that yes, there is such a thing as collecting sneakers and yes, the people who do it are real crazy about it. Hype hit the mainstream. 

 

Since then, Nike and Staple have continued their collaborations in a myriad of ways. This includes forward-thinking footwear designs, like the 2006 Nordic Pack released for the 2006 Olympics, to commissioning the Nike N.R.F. basketball league, even to helping Nike with its Considered initiative, which is a line of the world’s first fully biodegradable shoes. 

 

Staple’s Pigeon made a brief cameo on Nike SB’s What the Dunk in 2007, but has otherwise been limited to collectors unwilling to part ways with such a coveted piece of sneaker history. That is, until now, when Staple’s Black Pigeon Dunk Low will celebrate 15 years of Nike SB, and 20 years of Staple.

OG PIGEON DUNK

OG PIGEON DUNK

150 PAIRS WERE MADE, AND FIVE SHOPS WERE GIVEN 30 EACH.

150 PAIRS WERE MADE, AND FIVE SHOPS WERE GIVEN 30 EACH.

There is always a moment where you can pinpoint a subculture’s entrance into popular culture — when something ceases to be a niche, and joins the greater consciousness of the public. As recently as the early 2000s, sneakers were collected by a knowledgeable few. Exclusive releases were often constricted to specific cities, and resellers were a rare breed. Social media didn’t exist; Niketalk, still in its Web 1.0 incarnation, was one of the few places to talk sneakers. The idea of buying a shoe for four-figures on the resale market was unheard of. Then came Jeff Staple’s Nike SB Pigeon Dunk Low. The moment. 

 

In 2005, Nike SB was only three years old. The original silhouette of the Dunk, the classic shoe originally designed for college basketball programs across the U.S., was approaching its twenty-year anniversary. In three short years, SB had grown revered by sneaker nerds and skateboarders for tweaking the original model into the perfect skate shoe. They’d sell out, but the hype was still manageable, and confined to a carefully curated list of stockists across the world. Sneakers became a global phenomenon, and this seminal twentieth birthday of the Dunk needed a celebration that embraced that. 

 

Nike enlisted partners from London, Paris and Tokyo to provide their own spin on the SB Dunk. To represent New York, they hit up Jeff Staple, founder of Staple Design. 

 

“There was no brief or anything, it was a completely blank slate,” Staple recalls. “I came back to them with the idea of a pigeon, something that I thought represented the New York City hustle. If you were from here, you’d immediately get it, but if you weren’t, you might not, and I liked that.”

There is always a moment where you can pinpoint a subculture’s entrance into popular culture — when something ceases to be a niche, and joins the greater consciousness of the public. As recently as the early 2000s, sneakers were collected by a knowledgeable few. Exclusive releases were often constricted to specific cities, and resellers were a rare breed. Social media didn’t exist; Niketalk, still in its Web 1.0 incarnation, was one of the few places to talk sneakers. The idea of buying a shoe for four-figures on the resale market was unheard of. Then came Jeff Staple’s Nike SB Pigeon Dunk Low. The moment. 

 

In 2005, Nike SB was only three years old. The original silhouette of the Dunk, the classic shoe originally designed for college basketball programs across the U.S., was approaching its twenty-year anniversary. In three short years, SB had grown revered by sneaker nerds and skateboarders for tweaking the original model into the perfect skate shoe. They’d sell out, but the hype was still manageable, and confined to a carefully curated list of stockists across the world. Sneakers became a global phenomenon, and this seminal twentieth birthday of the Dunk needed a celebration that embraced that. 

 

Nike enlisted partners from London, Paris and Tokyo to provide their own spin on the SB Dunk. To represent New York, they hit up Jeff Staple, founder of Staple Design. 

 

“There was no brief or anything, it was a completely blank slate,” Staple recalls. “I came back to them with the idea of a pigeon, something that I thought represented the New York City hustle. If you were from here, you’d immediately get it, but if you weren’t, you might not, and I liked that.”

150 pairs were made, and five shops were given 30 each. A few days before the February 22, 2005 release date, Staple posted a drop date on their website, with the actual date obscured by pigeon droppings. All the kids knew was February twenty-something. Sneakerheads formed a line outside Staple’s Reed Space store, not knowing if they had to wait a day, a week, or anything more than that. 

 

On the 22nd it was pandemonium. Kids  with each of the thirty lucky buyers being escorted out the back door of the shop, and into waiting taxis.

 

The next day, the front page of the New York Post read “Sneaker Frenzy: Hot Shoe Sparks Ruckus.”

Not all the accounts experienced the same madness. Reed Space, being run by Staple, was the one store that buyers were positive would have them. 

 

“When the other accounts got the shipment, they were like, ‘What’s this?’” Staple says. “You didn’t order stuff back then because it was so experimental. If you were a cool shop, Nike would just send you cool stuff. I heard Supreme gave all their pairs away to friends and employees.” That day, the world learned that there is a hype, a second-hand market, and a culture to sneakers. Staple recalls an immediate change to the clientele at Reed Space following the release of the Pigeon Dunk — not just streetwear sneakerheads, but Wall Street bankers and middle-aged moms from the Upper East Side intrigued by this idea of sneakers creating such a reaction. 

 

Those pairs ran for $150 retail. Outside the store, they were selling for double. That night on eBay, they were going for a thousand dollars. Today, a pair goes for anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000.

 

“What’s unique about it is that most of the people who own it, don’t even want to sell it,” Staple says. “I feel like people hold onto it for when they need to send their kid to college or get bailed out of jail [laughs]. That’s when they’ll cash that chip in.”

150 pairs were made, and five shops were given 30 each. A few days before the February 22, 2005 release date, Staple posted a drop date on their website, with the actual date obscured by pigeon droppings. All the kids knew was February twenty-something. Sneakerheads formed a line outside Staple’s Reed Space store, not knowing if they had to wait a day, a week, or anything more than that. 

 

On the 22nd it was pandemonium. Kids  with each of the thirty lucky buyers being escorted out the back door of the shop, and into waiting taxis.

 

The next day, the front page of the New York Post read “Sneaker Frenzy: Hot Shoe Sparks Ruckus.”

Not all the accounts experienced the same madness. Reed Space, being run by Staple, was the one store that buyers were positive would have them. 

 

“When the other accounts got the shipment, they were like, ‘What’s this?’” Staple says. “You didn’t order stuff back then because it was so experimental. If you were a cool shop, Nike would just send you cool stuff. I heard Supreme gave all their pairs away to friends and employees.” That day, the world learned that there is a hype, a second-hand market, and a culture to sneakers. Staple recalls an immediate change to the clientele at Reed Space following the release of the Pigeon Dunk — not just streetwear sneakerheads, but Wall Street bankers and middle-aged moms from the Upper East Side intrigued by this idea of sneakers creating such a reaction. 

 

Those pairs ran for $150 retail. Outside the store, they were selling for double. That night on eBay, they were going for a thousand dollars. Today, a pair goes for anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000.

 

“What’s unique about it is that most of the people who own it, don’t even want to sell it,” Staple says. “I feel like people hold onto it for when they need to send their kid to college or get bailed out of jail [laughs]. That’s when they’ll cash that chip in.”

YOU HAVEN’T DONE A PROJECT WITH NIKE SB SINCE 2005. HOW DID YOU GUYS GET THE IDEA FOR A SEQUEL?

 

JESSE: For Nike SB, everything is about timing. I’d like to say we had a master plan, but we don’t work like that. We still like to work with creative based on feel and the moment. It just felt right.

 

JEFF: This whole project happened over a brunch at the Bowery Hotel. It was a casual conversation, just like the early days of Nike SB. There were planets aligning, and even though we’ve been casually talking about doing something with them again for years, it lined up perfectly this year with the twentieth anniversary of Staple, and the fifteenth anniversary of the SB Dunk. 

YOU HAVEN’T DONE A PROJECT WITH NIKE SB SINCE 2005. HOW DID YOU GUYS GET THE IDEA FOR A SEQUEL?

 

JESSE: For Nike SB, everything is about timing. I’d like to say we had a master plan, but we don’t work like that. We still like to work with creative based on feel and the moment. It just felt right.

 

JEFF: This whole project happened over a brunch at the Bowery Hotel. It was a casual conversation, just like the early days of Nike SB. There were planets aligning, and even though we’ve been casually talking about doing something with them again for years, it lined up perfectly this year with the twentieth anniversary of Staple, and the fifteenth anniversary of the SB Dunk. 

WHERE WAS YOUR HEAD AT DURING THE DESIGN PROCESS? 

 

JESSE: The design process on this one, like Jeff said, started with an easy brunch at the Bowery Hotel. Often times, it’s all about a conversation or a moment. For me on this one, it was all about opening a new chapter on the Pigeon story. And I also wanted us to build up what the two brands created back in the day.

 

JEFF: We wanted to do something unexpected. Start new. And sort of let the Pigeon tell the story. 

 

WELL I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE EXPECTING IT TO BE RE-RELEASED AS A HIGH. 

 

JEFF: I have to give it to Nike, because they steered me away from doing a high. When other people are doing something that’s proven, there’s a tendency to play it safe. They did it with the Supa’s, they did it with the Diamond’s, the De La’s, etc… So it was natural to think Pigeon Dunk High. 

But they said, “Let’s do something different.” My initial thought was “Why?”

Nike wanted to surprise people. Literally no one is expecting a fully new design. 

 

JESSE: We talked about what the Pigeon and the Dunk back in pre-internet days was all about. And the low just felt like a more natural choice.

 

YOU GUYS MANAGED TO KEEP IT UNDER WRAPS REALLY WELL IN THIS AGE OF LEAKS AND  INSTAGRAM. WAS THERE ANY PRESS ON IT?

 

JESSE: The element of surprise is what this game is all about. It’s been fun knowing all the speculations were totally incorrect. We didn’t do it to piss anyone off. Instead, it was to allow people to be excited again. That’s what this game is about. That’s how it started.

It’s about being excited seeing someone rock something, or in this case, skate in something you’ve never seen before.

 

JEFF: When I went to Beaverton to work out the details of this project, I couldn’t post anything about being on Campus. Couldn’t even really post about being in Portland!  (cont.)

WHERE WAS YOUR HEAD AT DURING THE DESIGN PROCESS? 

 

JESSE: The design process on this one, like Jeff said, started with an easy brunch at the Bowery Hotel. Often times, it’s all about a conversation or a moment. For me on this one, it was all about opening a new chapter on the Pigeon story. And I also wanted us to build up what the two brands created back in the day.

 

JEFF: We wanted to do something unexpected. Start new. And sort of let the Pigeon tell the story. 

 

WELL I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE EXPECTING IT TO BE RE-RELEASED AS A HIGH. 

 

JEFF: I have to give it to Nike, because they steered me away from doing a high. When other people are doing something that’s proven, there’s a tendency to play it safe. They did it with the Supa’s, they did it with the Diamond’s, the De La’s, etc… So it was natural to think Pigeon Dunk High. 

But they said, “Let’s do something different.” My initial thought was “Why?”

Nike wanted to surprise people. Literally no one is expecting a fully new design. 

 

JESSE: We talked about what the Pigeon and the Dunk back in pre-internet days was all about. And the low just felt like a more natural choice.

 

YOU GUYS MANAGED TO KEEP IT UNDER WRAPS REALLY WELL IN THIS AGE OF LEAKS AND  INSTAGRAM. WAS THERE ANY PRESS ON IT?

 

JESSE: The element of surprise is what this game is all about. It’s been fun knowing all the speculations were totally incorrect. We didn’t do it to piss anyone off. Instead, it was to allow people to be excited again. That’s what this game is about. That’s how it started.

It’s about being excited seeing someone rock something, or in this case, skate in something you’ve never seen before.

 

JEFF: When I went to Beaverton to work out the details of this project, I couldn’t post anything about being on Campus. Couldn’t even really post about being in Portland!  (cont.)

BLACK PIGEON DUNK

BLACK PIGEON DUNK

THERE’S SUCH A BIG STORY ABOUT THE WILD RELEASE OF THE ORIGINAL. DO YOU THINK IT’S POSSIBLE TO HAVE THAT SORT OF BIG MOMENT IN 2017, WITH SOCIAL MEDIA AND SO MANY RELEASES EVERY WEEK?

 

JESSE: That’s such a tough question. For sure it’s possible, it’s all up to the product, content, and demand. Nobody planned for the original craze that went down on the first Pigeon and I’ve learned when you think something is gonna be hot, the streets say “NO.” The Skateboarders on the crew think they are sick, so I’m happy. The world had had no idea what was coming, when it was coming, or where it was landing, so that makes me happy too.

 

JEFF: That was definitely a point of discussion for us. A part of me was just like “damn, maybe we leave that as it was. It was so special; maybe there is no way to do it justice? Maybe we just leave it as one of the greatest of all time.” When we decided to finally do something, we knew we had to do everything in our collective power to make just as special as the first time. 

 

IT SEEMS DIFFICULT BECAUSE THE CEILING ON SNEAKER CULTURE DEFINITELY BROKE RIGHT AFTER THAT. 

 

JEFF: Well, there’s a new ceiling.

 

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY THAT IS?  

 

JEFF: I’m trying to figure it out myself, to be completely honest. There’s something about the hand-to-hand organic nature of that old era that cannot be replicated on any digital platform. That kind of innocence is rare.

THERE’S SUCH A BIG STORY ABOUT THE WILD RELEASE OF THE ORIGINAL. DO YOU THINK IT’S POSSIBLE TO HAVE THAT SORT OF BIG MOMENT IN 2017, WITH SOCIAL MEDIA AND SO MANY RELEASES EVERY WEEK?

 

JESSE: That’s such a tough question. For sure it’s possible, it’s all up to the product, content, and demand. Nobody planned for the original craze that went down on the first Pigeon and I’ve learned when you think something is gonna be hot, the streets say “NO.” The Skateboarders on the crew think they are sick, so I’m happy. The world had had no idea what was coming, when it was coming, or where it was landing, so that makes me happy too.

 

JEFF: That was definitely a point of discussion for us. A part of me was just like “damn, maybe we leave that as it was. It was so special; maybe there is no way to do it justice? Maybe we just leave it as one of the greatest of all time.” When we decided to finally do something, we knew we had to do everything in our collective power to make just as special as the first time. 

 

IT SEEMS DIFFICULT BECAUSE THE CEILING ON SNEAKER CULTURE DEFINITELY BROKE RIGHT AFTER THAT. 

 

JEFF: Well, there’s a new ceiling.

 

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY THAT IS?  

 

JEFF: I’m trying to figure it out myself, to be completely honest. There’s something about the hand-to-hand organic nature of that old era that cannot be replicated on any digital platform. That kind of innocence is rare.

HAVE ANY OTHER RELEASES IMPRESSED YOU RECENTLY? WHO WOULD YOU SAY HAS BEEN MAKING SOLID ATTEMPTS AT SOMETHING SPECIAL? 

 

JESSE: The Momofuku Dunk with David Chang was a fun one to work on. Whenever you get to work with someone who is the leader in his craft, it’s pretty special. Virgil Abloh is crushing it. He’s really proving that simple design is the hardest to execute, but, when achieved, it’s the most desired.

 

But what I think is going unnoticed are the workshops that he’s creating to let others catch a glimpse into his creative process.

 

JEFF: I like what Virgil did with Nike too. Rent out this massive space on Wall Street and hold what was basically a form of Ted Talks with all different people. It forced kids to learn something before they could get a sneaker. It was different. Tom Sachs created a whole obstacle course on Governors Island, where you had to do all these exercises to get the shoe. The trick is to pull the kids off Instagram and their phones and make them have a meaningful in-real-life experience. 

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR COLLABORATIONS BETWEEN BRANDS? DO YOU SEE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MAJOR SPORTS BRANDS AND THEIR PARTNERS CHANGING AS WE HEAD TO THE FUTURE? HOW SO?

 

JESSE: Collaboration is one of the pillars of creativity, it’s why I love what I do. The future looks bright in my opinion. The world is racing so fast on new innovation techniques, that it will force the best brands to be amazing at only a few things. When that happens, it’s only a natural progression for like-minded brands to collaborate on what each is excellent on. Does this sound like new thinking? I don’t think so. The tools we use to make the collaborations interesting are maybe the only thing that will evolve. So yeah, I’m excited for what’s next.

 

JEFF: Let’s face it. We are bombarded with dozens and dozens of “special collaboration projects” each and every day now. But like with any mass expansion, the cream will always rise to the top. People, brands, and corporations need to remember really REALLY memorable collaborations don’t happen in a boardroom or on a PowerPoint presentation. They happen over poached eggs and English muffins. [laughs] 

So the next time you spot me having a meal with someone, you can bet something special is in the works.

HAVE ANY OTHER RELEASES IMPRESSED YOU RECENTLY? WHO WOULD YOU SAY HAS BEEN MAKING SOLID ATTEMPTS AT SOMETHING SPECIAL? 

 

JESSE: The Momofuku Dunk with David Chang was a fun one to work on. Whenever you get to work with someone who is the leader in his craft, it’s pretty special. Virgil Abloh is crushing it. He’s really proving that simple design is the hardest to execute, but, when achieved, it’s the most desired.

 

But what I think is going unnoticed are the workshops that he’s creating to let others catch a glimpse into his creative process.

 

JEFF: I like what Virgil did with Nike too. Rent out this massive space on Wall Street and hold what was basically a form of Ted Talks with all different people. It forced kids to learn something before they could get a sneaker. It was different. Tom Sachs created a whole obstacle course on Governors Island, where you had to do all these exercises to get the shoe. The trick is to pull the kids off Instagram and their phones and make them have a meaningful in-real-life experience. 

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR COLLABORATIONS BETWEEN BRANDS? DO YOU SEE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MAJOR SPORTS BRANDS AND THEIR PARTNERS CHANGING AS WE HEAD TO THE FUTURE? HOW SO?

 

JESSE: Collaboration is one of the pillars of creativity, it’s why I love what I do. The future looks bright in my opinion. The world is racing so fast on new innovation techniques, that it will force the best brands to be amazing at only a few things. When that happens, it’s only a natural progression for like-minded brands to collaborate on what each is excellent on. Does this sound like new thinking? I don’t think so. The tools we use to make the collaborations interesting are maybe the only thing that will evolve. So yeah, I’m excited for what’s next.

 

JEFF: Let’s face it. We are bombarded with dozens and dozens of “special collaboration projects” each and every day now. But like with any mass expansion, the cream will always rise to the top. People, brands, and corporations need to remember really REALLY memorable collaborations don’t happen in a boardroom or on a PowerPoint presentation. They happen over poached eggs and English muffins. [laughs] 

So the next time you spot me having a meal with someone, you can bet something special is in the works.

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