Nike Designer Richard Clarke

1.What was the Nike Total Air Pillar inspired by?

The pillar max was driven by tight brief to deliver a full-length air platform for maximum cushioning and support with a lightweight upper. The upper combined both traditional construction on the medial side and a lightweight non-stretch sonic wielded overlay on mesh lateral side for breathability and strength. I was once snowboarding on Mount Baker in Washington State and this kid was
wearing a pair as snowboard shoes…

Nike Designer Richard Clarke

2. Do you still have any concepts or sketches of the original design that you could share with us?

Unfortunately I don’t, all sketches and construction drafting are now in Nikes Department of Nike Achieves or (DNA) each shoe would have its own folder of all product details and would be sent to DNA once the design was completed.

3. Cape Town is obsessed with your shoe. Especially the Michigan Colourway. I own both the original and retros that released in 2012. Was the inspiration for the colourway of this shoe really the Michigan Wolverines or was that coincidental?

You’re correct, the Michigan colourway was intentional as was the Grey/Volt -which paid homage to the original Air Max 95.

Nike Designer Richard Clarke

4. What did you think of the 2012 retro/reissue?

I’ve not seen the reissue, so I’m not sure how close it was to the original, sometimes some of the elements get deleted for production and costing.

5. Did you have any idea they were so popular here in Cape Town, South Africa and how does that make you feel?

I’m constantly amazed how Nike and its catalogue of footwear continue to connect via their honest focus on function and great design. I’m happy you’re getting to enjoy a show, which is essentially 20yrs old.

6. I know you designed the amazing Air Max 120, which other gems have you worked on through the years?

I worked on a number of other shoes from the Air Zoom Haven to the Nike Considered Line of product, but Nike Sportswear, NSW, Nike Lab and Nike Town Retail stores were some fun projects too.

Nike Designer Richard ClarkeOG Air Max 120 from 1998 (Pic – DRUMattX)

7. Any other facts about the Total Air line that you could share with us? Full Length Air units have been immensely popular here since they came out.

It seems so simple today, but 20yrs ago it challenged both Nike and the athletes to think differently. Some things are never easy and they’re usually the ones worth fighting for.

8. Which colourway of the Total Air Pillars are your favourite?

I personally like the Michigan colourway.

Nike Designer Richard ClarkeOriginal Nike Total Air Pillar Ad from 1998 featuring wrestler Cary Kolat (Image – Nike, INC)

9. Cary Kolat was the wrestler featured on the original Nike ad for the Pillars. Why a wrestler and not a more conventional figure or was that the plan all along?

The shoe was a training shoe and Cary was a polarizing figure as an athlete who provided a great attitude to a product, which needed a peer to wrestle with. Strength and grace in the face of competition.

A big Thank you to Richard Clarke!