We speak to Nathan VanHook, a design maverick who led the team that created Neymar Jr’s debut collection with Jordan Brand.
How did you first get into product design for Nike?
I went to industrial design school in Philadelphia and ended up designing wetsuits for surfing after I finished school and then my background in art led me to Nike. I’ve been a fan of Nike since I was a kid.
What are some of your career highlights so far, besides being known as “Nathan VanHook, the man who designed the Yeezy 2”?
Being able to work on different products in Sportswear, Football, and more has been incredible. I’ve had a bunch of different opportunities and experiences to design the footwear I’ve always wanted to design. Football is a sport with very expressive players so I get to design the kinds of products I dreamed about as a kid.
In the past, a collaboration between Jordan Brand and Neymar would seem improbable. How did an idea like this become a reality?
This all started very organically. This started by seeing Neymar wearing Jordan hats and talking to him about what Jordan meant to him. He said Jordan stood for greatness and becoming a champion so we wanted to make this product for him and knew it would mean a lot to him.
Was there any obstacle that you had to overcome to make your vision for this collection a reality?
It was actually very smooth and natural the whole way through. It’s just a great example of when things really makes sense, it goes well.
What are the qualities which made Neymar a suitable candidate for a Jordan collaboration?
Neymar has great style on and off the pitch. At a young age, he’s accomplished so much. He has a very daring style and does things you’ve never seen before, very much like Jordan.
What was the design process behind the NJR x Jordan collection like? Did Neymar and Jordan both come together to share their design ideas?
We sat with Neymar and he picked out the V and made great suggestions. We worked closely with him to ensure the boot reflected his style and passion. When we showed it to Michael Jordan, he loved it.
What insights and input did Neymar give when he met the design team for this unique collaboration?
It was Neymar’s idea to have a #23 on one foot and the #10 on the other. He wanted to be sure we had the #23 on there out of respect to Michael Jordan. His son’s initials are on the laces as another personal touch.
What are some of the challenges in combining the design elements of Jordan and Hypervenom?
The Jordan V and the Hypervenom actually merge beautifully. The Dynamic Cuff on the Hypervenom actually makes it look a bit like a basketball silhouette and the iconic jet fighter teeth on the Jordan V translates well to the Hypervenom upper.
What are the key design elements in this collab?
The iconic jet fighter teeth, the matte finish of the upper, the reflective properties, definitely the cement pattern, and of course the inclusion of the Jumpman and the Jordan lace locks.
What was Neymar’s reaction when he first saw the collection?
He was blown away and seeing his name locked up with the Jumpman logo really meant a lot to him. It’s been a special project all the way through but seeing his reaction was definitely the best part.