On Friday, 3×1 and Nike Inc. are releasing three limited-edition selvedge denim shoe styles, putting the type of fabric on the Air Force 1 for the first time ever, after 1,500 iterations. The sneakers cost $130 and come in stonewash blue, raw indigo and black denim. It’s an important moment for the small denim house. “We’ve had so many Nike relationships over the years,” said owner and denim industry veteran Scott Morrison. “I hope that this will be the first of many things we get to do.”
Nike is under constant pressure to develop new styles, so it often collaborates with outside fashion houses and designers. Drops happen every few days in an eternal cycle of hype, long lines and sellouts. Nike delivered strong results globally last quarter, but had weak sales in North America due to a slow period at its U.S. retail partners. Using non-traditional materials is one way to stand out, but the new collaboration won’t be the first denim sneaker. Adidas, Puma and Converse have all sold denim styles. Nike previously made denim skateboarding sneakers and Air Jordans in collaboration with Levi’s.
The relationship between Nike and 3×1 began, at least in part, like many New York relationships: thanks to forced proximity. The 3×1 store is right next door to NikeLab 21 Mercer, a high-concept shop that’s frequented by celebrities and hosts regular sneaker drops. Nike Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker began visiting the neighboring shop in 2011, and Morrison often chats with Al Baik, senior creative director of men’s footwear at Nike Sportswear. Baik wanted to put high-end denim on people’s feet. ”It only made sense to leverage Scott’s passion and expertise to get us there,” he said.
At 3×1, the custom jeans are its standout product, but the bulk of its business is in wholesale. The label’s regular jeans run for around $200 to $400 and can be found in luxury retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Net-a-Porter.