Nike Uses Digital Data to Rethink T-Shirt Design Process

just-style global news

September 5, 2017

Sporting giant Nike has used digital data as the starting point for its latest clothing line, fundamentally shifting the conventional process used to make a typical T-shirt.

The company brought together apparel designers, Nike Flyknit engineers and computational designers to re-think the new NikeLab collection titled Nike Advanced Apparel Exploration (A.A.E.) 1.0.

While conventional design begins with a pattern and uses a cut-and-sew method to bring it to life, creation of the Nike A.A.E. 1.0 T-shirt started with study of Nike’s deep archive of digital data, which tracks the trajectory of the chest, back and arms in forward motion.

Computational design was then used to create a series of body maps to form a motion-led knit pattern.

The motion maps were considered alongside how the body reacts in different environments, with a special focus placed on modern urban environments and the massive temperature and humidity fluctuations that occur in these various places. The examination provided digital body maps, the first with explicit lifestyle parameters, including a cling map, airflow map, sweat map and heat map.

By merging all motion and temperature maps, a singular data set was created that could be translated by Nike’s knitting machines.

The algorithm, Nike says, output a single-layer, seamless knit that delivered ventilation where needed and coverage where desired. For example, more ventilation on the back and increased coverage at the chest.

“The end product advances both the archetypal garment’s essence and its everyday performance potential. This re-conceptualization ultimately serves to correct the standard T-shirt’s limitations (like holding a bunch of sweat) and suboptimal interaction with the body in motion.”

Kurt Parker, Nike’s vice president of apparel design, explains: “In apparel design, we have forever been combining multiple materials, depending on the problem we are solving, often resulting in the buildup of seams and complexity.

“Over time, our understanding of the body in motion and new manufacturing techniques have started to converge.”

This convergence is advanced through the application of computational design, which helped convert data into structural patterns and for a higher level of detail within the knit.

“It takes us to a completely different place. Instead of having to cut and sew multiple materials, we could just program the knitting machine to do it all at one moment, using one material instead of many.”

The full nine-piece NikeLab Nike A.A.E. 1.0 collection launches on September 14 at NikeLab and select retailers.

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