Nike’s New Basketball Sneaker Is a Spacey ’90s Hit

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Brand: Nike

Model: Cosmic Unity

Release Date: February 26

Price: $150

Buy: Nike

What We’re Saying: The Nike Cosmic Unity is the brand’s latest performance basketball sneaker. After product shots leaked online earlier this year, the Swoosh has officially unveiled what it claims is its “most sustainable basketball footwear.”

As the name suggests, the Cosmic Unity features a spacey aesthetic. The hero colorway combines a black upper with a glowing green sole unit, whose bulbous shape reminds strongly of iconic ’90s basketball sneakers such as the Reebok Question or the Nike Air Zoom Flight 95. The Nike Cosmic Unity will be released in two other colorways, one of which features a predominantly silver and grey color scheme, while the other is more eye-catching, pairing a deep blue upper with pops of neon orange and turquoise.

In its announcement, Nike states that the Cosmic Unity collection (which also includes a range of apparel) is part of its Move to Zero sustainability campaign, which the brand has made a central part of its product range over the past 12 months. The Cosmic Unity is made up of “around 25 percent recycled materials by weight,” however, it’s currently unclear how favorably that compares to other Nike performance sneakers that include more environmentally-conscious materials or manufacturing processes.

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According to Nike, the 25 percent are made up of recycled Nike Grind materials in the midsole (of which “about 10 percent” is Nike Grind), the tongue top detail and heel (both partly containing Nike Grind, though unclear how much exactly), the Swoosh made out of recycled TPU, and recycled polyester in parts of the upper (though unclear what percentage of the upper it makes up).

Nike also states that it used a “unique mathematical approach” to reduce waste. When asked to clarify this, Nike wrote that the rubber sole was designed to use as little material as possible. This included “making it thinner and bringing in cavities in the traditional herringbone design.”

The Cosmic Unity upper is created using an additive manufacturing process, which is similar to 3D-printing. Nike describes it as “an innovative take on embroidery” and says that “we’re able to use material only in the exact location and quantity we need, avoiding the usual waste that comes with cutting fabrics, where there are scraps left behind.” Less waste is, of course, a positive, though it’s unclear exactly how much material was used in this process and how that compares with the amount used on sneakers that are constructed with traditional manufacturing processes.

The apparel capsule features jackets, pants, and shorts made from 100 percent recycled polyester. The drawcord tips, zipper hardware, and Swoosh branding are made of Nike Grind, which is a “collection of recycled materials originating from Nike manufacturing scrap, unsellable products, and worn-out sneakers.” The organic cotton fibers that make up at least 40 percent of the T-shirts in the collection are Better Cotton Initiative-certified.

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BCI is a non-profit that, according to the UN, works with stakeholders across the cotton supply chain to “make global cotton production better for the people who produce it [and] better for the environment it grows in.” Nike told Highsnobiety that BCI-certified cotton uses less water and fewer chemicals than conventionally-grown cotton. How exactly that is measured and quantitative measurements of its environmental impact are not immediately clear.

Nike states that it has made science-based goals to reduce its environmental impact and that Move To Zero is its premier sustainability campaign. To read more about Nike’s commitment to the environment, head to Nike’s FY19 impact report.

The Nike Cosmic Unity is a cool, new performance basketball design that — regardless of its level of sustainability — is a stylish addition to Nike Basketball’s lineup of sneakers. Sustainability in fashion is a murky field, which makes quantifying claims and putting them into context extremely difficult. Even if this sneaker is minimally more environmentally conscious than Nike’s “normal” performance footwear, it’s a step in the right direction.

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