When Nike introduced its Flyknit technology in 2012, the sportswear giant literally broke the mold of sneaker construction. By using a weaving technique that results in a virtually seamless one-piece upper, Nike is able to create a shoe that has the featherweight pliability of a sock yet the support and durability of a trainer. Flyknit is better for the environment, too. Compared with traditional cut-and-sew methods, the technology allows the company to slash its waste by roughly 60 percent. Five years on, Nike is employing a similar tack to Flyleather, a new “super material” that looks and feels like leather but is lighter and stronger.
Nike calls Flyleather its “most sustainable leather material ever.” Unlike traditional full-grain leather, Flyleather comprises parts of a cow’s hide that’s typically discarded during the leather-making process—up to 30 percent, according to Nike.
The firm grinds up the scraps, combining them with synthetic-blend fibers and polyester fabric before fusing everything into a single material. After a finishing process that includes final touches such as pigmentation, the material is placed on a roll for cutting, which improves efficiency and creates less waste.
All in all, the Flyleather technique uses about 90 percent less water than traditional full-grain leather, Nike said. It also has an 80 percent smaller carbon footprint than conventional leather manufacturing.
“Nike Flyleather completely mimics athletic, pigmented full-grain leathers in everything from fit to touch,” Tony Bignell, vice president of footwear innovation, said in a statement. “Unlike with traditional leathers, Flyleather can be produced with a consistent grade across a broader range of product.”
You don’t have to wait to experience Flyleather in person. An all-white Flyleather version of Nike’s signature Tennis Classic is available for sale for $85 at www.nike.com and at the Nike SoHo store, NikeLab 21 Mercer, and Dover Street Market in New York City.