A perfect addition to the versatile Air Max lineage, Leah Abbott styles her vision of streetwear futures for Nike Air Max Pre-Day and talks creative process and planning on set in this exclusive all-access editorial.
Marking Air Max Day 2021 with a brand new silhouette, Nike pay homage to an icon of athletics - Steve Prefontaine - with the unisex Pre-Day Sneaker.
Taking inspiration from classic 70s track-and-field details, the Pre-Day Sneaker's inaugural drop reimagines that critical period of footwear innovation for the modern-day; retooled and ready for the versatile lifestyles of the modern age.
In collaboration with Nike, we join stylist and sneakerhead, Leah Abbott, on set to deconstruct the creative process as she presents her vision of the latest in the Air Max lineage: Pre-Day.
What was your initial vision for the Pre-Day campaign?
Pre-Day is a unisex silhouette and one thing that really bothers me is when brands play to stereotypes when pitching shoes at the female sneaker market. I really wanted this campaign to place a unisex shoe in reality and frame it through a female lens. Women dress how they want to and we wear unisex clothes which we’ve used throughout the shoot. This is a unisex shoe, it’s super versatile, and it can be worn by anyone in lots of different ways. That’s what I wanted to focus on.
How much of your work is done in the planning stages versus how much relies on being adaptable and reactive to the realities of being on set?
There’s a tonne of planning that goes into styling. A lot of admin, a lot of moodboards and prep. But things always change when you’re. on set. It depends on the models; the space; seeing the products in person. You need to always be ready to adapt. I’d say it’s definitely a 50/50.
Where do you look for inspiration for your work?
I definitely look for inspiration within my network. I live in a really creative house – one of my housemates is a casting director and the other owns a store – so we all share moodboards and discuss references that inspire our creativity. Friends; our environment; we’re in a walking fashion school in London really. There’s inspiration everywhere.
You’ve spoke in the past about your creative vision being driven by a fear of repetition – what do you think it takes to say something new with a new silhouette like Pre-Day?
I think fashion and styling are always inspired by the current climate and what’s going on in the world. If your fashion is grounded in current events then I think it will always feel new and fresh because it’s reflecting the times we’re living in.
You’ve styled some of the foremost names in British music – from Jorja Smith to Slowthai, Skepta to Young T & Bugsey – how do you approach working with a new client and what do you think are the key factors shaping British style in 2021?
It’s definitely important to think about who they are as a person. You’re not trying to mould them into yourself or change their appearance straight away. Do your research – see what they like to wear – and start from there. Whenever I sign a new client I always bring pieces I know they’ll respond to and then fit in a few wildcards and then from there you can start to develop a look with them.
British style? I think finally over the past couple of years we’re just proud to be British in terms of music and fashion. We’re not trying to mimic American anymore. You’ve got Slowthai wearing Union Jack mohair jumpers. Skepta bringing back the Nike TN silhouette. I think for the first time British style is really reflecting the cities here. Simple tracksuits and agile versatile styles.
Over the years have you seen a shift in the differences between how you style for men and women – particularly in the streetwear space – as we’ve moved to become more focussed on individual expression versus rigid gendered styles?
I think rigid gender styles are pretty much outdated now. I’ve dressed men in women’s clothes and women in men’s clothes. Who’s to know? That’s part of styling, bringing life to a piece.
The under-serving of females in the sneaker space has rightfully become a conversation at the forefront of the industry over the past year or so – what are some of the key things you’d like to see change to make the industry more egalitarian for all?
I would like it to just be one universal space. Can we just get shoes that come in a size 2 to a size 14? Particularly because most females I know want to be able to wear male silhouettes or shoes that come in bigger sizes. I hate the separation, it’s really frustrating when you see a style you want, and it’s just been decided that it’s not for you.
Who are some of the key women shaping the industry you think people should be championing?
I really like Dina Asher-Smith. She’s a British World Champion sprinter. I really admire the fact she does all her sprinting in full glam. I love that she says ‘even though I’m a sprinter, I’m an athlete – I’m in this traditionally tomboy space – but I’m not a tomboy.’ She sprints in a full face of makeup and still gets gold. I think she’s great and it’s great for young girls to see that. I love Bree Runway as well. She’s an upcoming artist but she’s super specific about saying ‘I’m a popstar’. People look at her and would immediately assume she’s an R&B artist or a rapper, but she’s not. She makes pop music and she’s incredible at it and I love that she’s so sure of herself. She does all of her own concepting as well; she has a great vision and I really admire that.
What sets the Air Max lineage apart? What’s your favourite Air Max silhouette of all time and why?
Air Max has always reflected what the consumer wants at the time. It started with exposing the air bubble which everyone lost their mind over, then the shoes got lighter to establish itself themselves in the lifestyle realm. Air Max has always been reinventing itself for the consumer over time. It’s been so integrated into my life. My favourite Air Max is the 90 – it’s a defining silhouette for me and it’s what I think of when I think of Air Max.
Nike Air Max Pre-Day